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Reporting from Nashua, N.H. — Stepping up his attack on Mitt Romney’s business dealings on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, Newt Gingrich demanded Monday that his rival hold a lengthy news conference and confront what Gingrich called “legitimate questions” about how Romney made his millions and who may have suffered as a result.
Gingrich accused Romney of building the fortune that has underwritten his political career through a “flawed system” – better known as private equity – in which “a handful of rich people [can] manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money” by “looting a company and leaving behind broken families and broken neighborhoods.”
Gingrich said legitimate questions about Romney’s financial background have surfaced in a series of news media investigations, including recent accounts in the Wall Street Journal and Reuters.
“At some point, Gov. Romney is going to have to answer those questions. And I think it’s a legitimate question about exactly what happened: Where did the money go? Who got the money? What happened to the people involved? And to what extent is that his responsibility?” Gingrich told reporters in Manchester, N.H.
The former House speaker, who has fallen badly in national polling and now is running far behind Romney in New Hampshire, said he is an enthusiastic supporter of capitalism. He likes to point out that he formed four separate businesses after quitting Congress.
“But you have to raise questions about somebody who goes and invests a certain amount of money, say about $30 million, takes out an amount, about $180 million, a 6-to-1 return, and then the company goes bankrupt,” Gingrich said.
In South Carolina, a potentially pivotal primary state, a pro-Gingrich "super PAC," Winning Our Future, is launching an expensive negative ad campaign Wednesday that portrays Romney’s work at Bain Capital, the venture capital firm he co-founded, as destructive to the lives of workers in companies he took over or managed.
Much of the money for the anti-Romney attack comes from Sheldon Adelson, a Nevada casino magnate and longtime Gingrich supporter. Gingrich has lambasted Romney and a super PAC that supports him for waging a scorched-earth negative ad campaign against him in Iowa.
Gingrich told reporters he has not had any recent contact with Adelson. Under federal campaign law, a super PAC can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money — unlike the strictly controlled ceilings that apply to a candidate’s official campaign. The law also prohibits candidates and super PACs from coordinating their activities, though the groups are often run by former aides who are well-acquainted with the strategy and tactics of the official campaign, as is the case with the super PACs supporting Gingrich and Romney.
Romney has used the legal separation between campaign and super PAC to distance himself from the activities of Restore Our Future, the group supporting him, even though he personally raised money for it. The pro-Romney group is amping up its own ad buy in South Carolina, which is shaping up as the potentially decisive contest in the GOP presidential race.