Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry speaks during a campaign… (Rainier Ehrhardt / Getty…)
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on Monday launched an all-out attack on rival Mitt Romney's record and approach to capitalism at Bain Capital, charging in an early-morning South Carolina speech that the firm looted companies it purchased, wrecking the lives of workers in the Palmetto State and elsewhere.
The Texas governor's remarks coincide with a coming $3.4-million ad campaign in South Carolina by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich that also goes after Romney's record at Bain, the venture capital company founded by the former Massachusetts governor.
The Gingrich ads, funded by a donation to a so-called super-PAC headed by Las Vegas gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, draw on a documentary critical of Bain produced by a Republican filmmaker who worked with Romney in the past.
The full-throated attacks on Bain and private equity reveals the desperation of Romney's Republican opponents a day before New Hampshire primary voters go to the polls. But they also point to a rift inside the GOP between "Main Street Republicans" and those on Wall Street who have made enormous financial gains in recent decades.
[Updated, 10:11 a.m., Jan. 9: “We expect attacks on free enterprise from President Obama and his allies on the left -- not from so-called 'fiscal conservatives,'" Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul in a statement issued after Perry's South Carolina speech.
"Speaker Gingrich and Governor Perry seem to think that running against the private sector is the way to revive their floundering campaigns. Governor Romney will continue talking about his experience in the real economy, his vision for getting America back to work, and how important it is that we defeat President Obama in November,” the statement said.]
Gingrich, Perry and former Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. have been critical of Romney's record at Bain in the past. Now things are changing, with the criticisms becoming more biting and specific.
Perry's attack suggested that Romney's firm succeeded with help from Washington in ways that were fundamentally unfair.
“If you are a victim of Bain Capital’s downsizing, it is the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to say he feels your pain when he caused it," Perry said in remarks Monday in Anderson, S.C.
He called for a president "who will confront the unholy alliance between Washington and Wall Street."
He mocked Romney's statement Sunday that he knew what it was like to worry about getting a pink slip.
"I had to shake my head yesterday when one of the wealthiest men ever to run for president, the son of a multi-millionaire, Mitt Romney, said: 'I know what's it's like to worry whether you're going to get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.'
I have no doubt that Mitt Romney worried about pink slips. With as many jobs as Bain Capital killed, I’m sure he was worried he would run out of them.
"There's nothing wrong with being successful and making money. That's the American dream. But there is something inherently wrong with getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else."
Perry's remarks on Bain did not draw the same level of enthusiasm from the audience as his comments on border security and other topics, even though he personalized the criticism.
He mentioned that on his way to the event in Anderson he had stopped in Gaffney, S.C., the site of a photo album manufacturing company where 150 workers lost their jobs.
"But that didn’t happen until Mitt Romney’s private equity firm looted that company with more than $20 million in management fees," he said.
Perry's remarks were followed by a speech from a veteran who cited the Texas governor's business-friendly policies as the reason the former military man was able to start a company after returning from overseas.
Using material first reported by the Los Angeles Times, Perry charged that Bain forced a steel company with plants in South Carolina into bankruptcy.
"They squeezed $65 million in management fees out of the company. As for 700 steelworkers in Kansas City and Georgetown, South Carolina, they lost
their jobs, their health insurance, severance pay, and a large portion of their pensions," Perry said.