Media’s ties to Romney scrutinized

Orgs disclose dealings with his old business, Bain Capital

With Mitt Romney squeaking by Rick Santorum in Iowa and expected to do well as the primary season continues, media orgs are having to look into their own parent companies’ relationships with the multimillionaire’s old business, the private equity fund Bain Capital.

“We want to disclose that NBC Universal and Bain Capital, the company that Romney co-founded, are each part-owner of our Weather Channel,” said Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC last week. Pundit Ed Schultz also made a point of disclosing the relationship.

But NBCU isn’t the only company with ties to Bain. Also in the radio realm, Clear Channel Communications is joined at the hip to the investment group — the local media and outdoor ad giant merged with a private equity group co-led by Bain and Thomas Lee Partners in 2006, with Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and RBS among the minority stakeholders. The transaction was valued at $26.7 billion.

Clear Channel owns hundreds of radio stations around the country, with affiliations with all the major radio news networks. It’s the country’s largest radio operator, and its takeover by Bain streamlined the company, resulting in a reported 2,500 layoffs.

The more you look, the more Bain pops up: CBS Radio has a minority investment with Bain in Internet radio ad network TargetSpot (the deal totaled about $8.6 million); Bain re-invested last year. TargetSpot sells digital ads for CBS Radio but CBS News hasn’t mentioned the relationship, likely because the investment is small and the digital radio spots aren’t exactly the company’s lifeblood (though they presumably provide some support for radio news).

Romney left Bain in 1999 to work on the Salt Lake City Olympic Games organizing committee, but it didn’t end his relationship with the company he co-founded. The New York Times reported last month that Bain compensated Romney for his founding interest in the firm by giving him a stake in funds earned after his departure — in other words, a part of the money he earns off those interests still go to the presidential candidate, even though he’s not actively working at Bain any longer.