CINCINNATI — Using unusually vivid language, Mitt Romney tried to take the political offensive against President Barack Obama on Monday, accusing Obama of cronyism that “stinks” in steering federal contracts to supporters.
Unfazed, Obama needled his Republican rival for finally having a job-creation plan — for people overseas.
At the same time, though Romney endeavored to switch the campaign focus, questions about his tenure at Bain Capital, a venture capital company, seemed destined to shape the conversation at least a while longer. On a day devoted mainly to raising money, Romney went on Fox News to complain that all Obama can do “is attack me” on Bain and other subjects rather than taking useful steps to improve the economy.
Sure enough, the Democratic incumbent showed no sign of letting up.
Rallying for support in crucial Ohio, Obama said Romney’s proposal to free companies from taxes on their foreign holdings would displace American workers. He cited a study he said concluded that “Gov. Romney’s economic plan would in fact create 800,000 jobs. There’s only one problem, the jobs wouldn’t be in America.”
Romney’s campaign, itself moving to the attack, contended that Obama’s Energy Department has steered loans and grants to several companies connected to the president’s political supporters.
Romney, speaking to donors in Baton Rouge, La., said Obama had a policy of “taking your tax dollars and putting it in businesses owned by contributors to his campaign. And that is smelly at best. It stinks.”
Romney aides cited some well-known cases, such as Solyndra, a California solar energy company that went bankrupt, and some less-publicized cases. They include Westly Group, a venture capital firm whose affiliated companies have received federal loans and grants.
Steve Westly, the company’s founder, is a major Obama campaign fundraiser.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Energy Department’s decisions “were made without regard to political connections.” She said some grants have gone to projects with “just as robust connections to Republican campaigns and donors.”
While Obama held a freewheeling town hall in Ohio, Romney raised money in the safely GOP states of Louisiana and Mississippi.
The past several days of the campaign have centered on Romney’s former work at Bain Capital and whether he has been straightforward about the timing of his departure, a line of attack that Obama is exploiting to try to undermine public support in Romney’s business credentials and trustworthiness. Obama assailed Romney’s tax plans for U.S. businesses on Monday.
At his Ohio event, Obama cited an article in the publication Tax Notes suggesting Romney’s tax proposals would encourage U.S. companies to create up to 800,000 jobs overseas. Romney supports “a territorial tax system,” which would allow overseas profits made by U.S. companies to avoid federal taxation.
Romney’s campaign cited campaign disclosure reports showing that the article’s author, Reed College economist Kimberly A. Clausing, has donated money to Obama’s campaign. Republicans say Romney’s overall tax proposals would encourage greater job growth at home.
Romney “has a comprehensive plan to reform the corporate tax code that will lower rates, get rid of incentives for firms to create jobs in other countries, and encourage the kind of economic growth President Obama has been unable to deliver,” said campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg.
Romney traveled to Louisiana to attend a private fundraiser alongside Gov. Bobby Jindal, among those on Romney’s short list for vice president. Romney raised an estimated $2 million at the event, where 40 donors paid $50,000 to attend.
While Romney and pro-Republican “super PACs” are raising huge sums, campaign laws place limits on how much Romney can spend before the late-summer nominating conventions take place. Meanwhile, Obama has outspent Romney in some key states.