WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of getting a pass on the subject from his rivals, Mitt Romney was challenged in the Republican presidential debate Saturday night on his frequent claims that he created great numbers of jobs in the private sector. Newt Gingrich, for one, said Romney's record as a venture capitalist was one of flipping companies, taking out all the money and "leaving behind the workers."
The bottom line remains unknown about how many jobs were gained or lost from Romney's work at the Bain Capital private equity company. But this much is clear: His accounting behind the assertion that he created more than 100,000 jobs at companies he helped start up or turn around has been flawed.
A look at some of the claims in the latest GOP debate and how they compare with the facts:
ROMNEY: "But in the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net ... net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs.."
GINGRICH: "I'm not nearly as enamored of a Wall Street model where you can flip companies, you can go in and have leveraged buyouts, you can basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers."
THE FACTS: Romney has never substantiated his frequent claim that he was a creator of more than 100,000 jobs while leading the Bain Capital private equity company. His campaign merely cites success stories without laying out the other side of the ledger — jobs lost at Bain-acquired or Bain-supported firms that closed, trimmed their workforce or shifted employment overseas.
Moreover, his campaign bases its claims on recent employment figures at three companies — Staples, Domino's and Sports Authority — even though Romney's involvement with them ceased years ago.
By that sort of charitable math, President Barack Obama could be credited with creating over 1 million jobs even though employment overall is down about 2 million since he came to office. But Romney accuses Obama of destroying jobs while using a different standard to judge his own performance — cherry-picked examples that leave everything else out.
By its nature, venture capitalism often results in lost jobs because profitability and efficiency are key to investors, not how many people are on the payroll. Bain Capital profited in cases where employment went both up and down.
Staples, now with close to 90,000 employees, and Sports Authority, with about 15,000, were startups supported by Romney. The direct work force at Domino's has grown by nearly 8,000 since Romney's intervention. But Romney got out of the game in 1999, which has not stopped his campaign from crediting him with jobs created at those companies since then.
Romney toned down the braggadocio in the latest debate, saying that of the Bain-supported companies that grew, "we're only a small part of that, by the way." But he insisted his claim of more than 100,000 jobs was a "net net" figure that takes into account job losses elsewhere, even though his campaign has defended the assertion only by reporting on the performance of Sports Authority, Domino's and Staples.
No one has been able to produce a full accounting of job gains and losses from the scores of companies Romney dealt with at Bain. But a Los Angeles Times review of Bain's 10 largest investments under Romney found that four of the big companies declared bankruptcy within a few years, costing thousands of jobs and often pension and severance benefits.
Associated Press writer Nancy Benac contributed to this report.