Deval Patrick faces scrutiny over Bain Capital ties as he joins 2020 race

In 2012, Mitt Romney's Bain Capital work emerged as a big complication

The four years that Deval Patrick, the latest candidate to jump into the 2020 presidential race, spent at private equity firm Bain Capital could complicate his late bid to nab the Democratic nomination.

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Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts, joined the firm in 2015 to launch and lead a platform focused on “social impact investing,” and until his resignation this week he worked as the managing director of Bain’s Double Impact Fund.

The same day Patrick joined the race, however, questions began to circulate about how much of a liability Bain Capital could be for him, given the trouble it caused Mitt Romney, who co-founded the firm in 1984, when he ran for president in 2012.

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“If your main argument for how to grow the economy was ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors’ then you’re missing what this job [president] is about,” President Barack Obama said during the 2012 campaign. He also ran a devastating two-minute ad in multiple states, detailing how Bain Capital would buy a business, saddle it with debt and then sell it for parts.

“Bain Capital walked away with a lot of money that they made off this plant,” a former steel worker, whose factory went bankrupt shortly after Bain Capital acquired the company, said in the ad. “We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.”

Voters rejected Bain Capital, and Romney, in 2012, dubbing the latter a “vulture capitalist” who destroyed jobs. And in the decade since the financial crisis, the Democratic Party has only shifted left, with two of the frontrunners -- Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders -- preaching an anti-Wall Street gospel.

Democratic presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks to media outside The Bridge Cafe after campaigning Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

“First of all, I love that the party has moved to the left. I love that we are the party of the woke,” Patrick told MSNBC on Thursday. “I have always conducted my personal life and my business life and my life as a civil rights lawyer, my life as an advocate, my life as a mediator and as a governor that way, and why, it’s not because I am trying to smooth over issues. I am interested in getting at root causes.”

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But the 63-year-old defended his work at the Boston-based company.

“There is a place for private equity in the private economy,” he said. “There is a place for business in our lives. But there is — it is also true that capitalism, generally, has a lot to answer for. That is so. And we need to be able to confront that and that’s exactly the work I’ve been doing at Bain Capital.”

Patrick’s 2020 rivals haven’t responded to his decision to enter the race yet, but his candidacy could place him on a collision course with Warren, his home-state senator.

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In mid-July, Warern unveiled a proposal taking aim at private equity firms and investment funds that make money by buying and selling companies. The bill would overhaul the way private equity is governed, requiring the industry to change some of its most profitable business practices. It would also offer increased protections for workers if their private equity-owned employers file for bankruptcy.

According to Warren, since 2009 investors have put $5.8 trillion into private equity globally, and today 35,000 private equity-owned companies employ 5.8 million workers.