Dem aide on Bain: If Romney wasn't in charge, who was?

(CBS News) The debate over when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital continued Sunday morning, as a campaign aide to President Obama hammered on the issue despite the Romney campaign's attempt to move beyond the discussion and focus on the economy.

The debate intensified this past week after media reports revealed that Romney maintained the title of "sole shareholder, Chief Executive Officer and President" of Bain Capital after 1999, when he said he left the firm to run the Salt Lake City Olympics. Obama spokesperson Stephanie Cutter said Romney's departure date matters, because his experience at Bain is "his sole rationale for being president."

"If you're signing an SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] document with your own signature that you're the president, C.E.O., chairman of the board and 100 percent owner of a company, in what world are you living in that you're not in charge?" Cutter said Sunday on "Face the Nation."

"If he wasn't the head of it, who was?" she asked.

Romney adviser Kevin Madden said what Romney has also said: that he left the company in 1999.

"The reason there is a document in 2002 that had his signature is, during that transition from 1999 to 2002 where there was transfer of ownership to the new partners of Bain, that there was a duty to sign those documents. But every single - even a bipartisan commission indicated Governor Romney left Bain in 1999," Madden told host Bob Schieffer. "This has been established, yet the Obama campaign, the president himself, continued to pursue these inaccurate statements, and I think it's to the detriment of the public right now."

"It doesn't make any difference that we're arguing the semantics of when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital," Cutter said. "He has put for his sole rationale being president his experience at Bain Capital, and that every decision he'll make as president should be seen through the lens of his experience with Bain Capital, and we're just getting a taste of that, whether it's investing in companies . . . and those investments happened before 1999 when Mitt Romney was, in his words, 'in charge' that became the pioneers in outsourcing, or whether it's investing in companies, loading them up with [debt] and pushing them into bankruptcy and yet you walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars but you're leaving workers without jobs, pensions, health care and companies decimated."

Cutter said Romney's responsibilities at Bain - and when those responsibilities began and ended - are legitimate discussions to have particularly, she said, because the presumptive GOP nominee "put it on the table.

"And the simple point is, if you're telling the SEC you're in charge but you're telling the American people that you bear no responsibility, one of those things is not true," she added.

Referring to Cutter's comment made to reporters last week in which she said an executive misrepresenting his role on SEC documents is a felony, Madden said her suggestion that Romney committed a felony is "troubling."

"First, I think it is very troubling that the president would direct this campaign to label someone like Governor Romney, who is a very good and honorable man, as a felon," Madden said.

Cutter said the Obama campaign is not going to apologize for the comment.

"Just a few months ago in the primary, Mitt Romney said to his opponents, who were crushing him at the time, 'Stop whining.' And that's a good message for the Romney campaign," Cutter said. "Instead of whining about what the Obama campaign is saying, just put the facts out there and let people decide, rather than trying to hide them.

"The tax returns is exactly just about that," Cutter said, pointing to Romney's refusal to release tax returns from before 2010. "If he didn't gain any tax advantages from having investments in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and a Swiss bank account, then show us. Show the American people. What are you hiding?"

Madden said Romney has gone "above and beyond" by releasing his 2010 returns and 2011 estimated taxes.

"Governor Romney has dutifully and according to the law filed all of his financial disclosure requirements. He's gone above the law," he said.

Cutter, however, said Romney's refusal to release his tax returns is an issue of transparency. "This discussion is about transparency and showing the American people what your perspective is and what judgments you're going to make as president," she said.

Madden added that the focus on Romney's personal finances and the year he left Bain is "more troubling" because the president is trying to distract voters from the economy.

"Where we had a jobs report come out recently, we have 8.2 percent unemployment," Madden said. "We have anemic job growth in this country; we have 23 million Americans struggling to find work. We have record deficits. We have people that are trying to find a job, they can't find one. People that have a job are really worried about losing it. And the president does not have an answer to that for the American people. He is not talking about his record because he doesn't have one to run on. I think that's what's really troubling. We have our president right now who's not willing to talk about what he's going to do to fix the economy and . . . is only interested in attacking Governor Romney."

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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