Image: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich
Scott Olson  /  Getty Images file
The war of words is heating up between Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
By Michael Isikoff National investigative correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/7/2012 2:18:28 PM ET 2012-01-07T19:18:28

A pro-Gingrich “super PAC” is planning to air a blistering new attack video in South Carolina on Mitt Romney, depicting the GOP presidential front-runner as a corporate “raider” whose firm “destroyed the dreams of thousands of Americans” by buying up companies and firing its workers.

The film, titled “King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” — was made by a former Romney advertising adviser. Its contents mirror attacks that have been made for months by political surrogates of President Barack Obama on Romney’s years as the chief officer of the Bain Capital investment firm.

“For the first time, this film will show what Bain Capital actually did,” said Rick Tyler, a senior adviser to Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich super PAC that acquired the rights to the movie on Friday. The super PAC is posting a two-minute trailer from the 27-minute film on a website Saturday.

“They targeted companies … they raided them … and thousands of workers lost their jobs. This is not capitalism. This is predatory,” Tyler said.

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Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, responded Saturday: “It’s puzzling to see Speaker Gingrich and his supporters continue their attacks on free enterprise. This is the type of criticism we've come to expect from President Obama and his left-wing allies at Unlike President Obama and Speaker Gingrich, Mitt Romney spent his career in business and knows what it will take to turn around our nation’s bad economy.”

The pro-Gingrich super PAC’s plans to air excerpts from the movie in South Carolina represents a major escalation in the war of rival super PACs that is shaping the GOP race.

Romney says no to Obama's 'big, bad things'

The slickly made movie focuses on Romney’s years as the chief officer of Bain Capital, featuring interviews with workers who allegedly lost their jobs — and had their homes foreclosed — as a result of the firm’s corporate buyouts.

“Then we have this company that comes in and destroys everything that we ever worked for,” says one woman talking about Bain Capital’s closure of plants run by American Pad & Paper Company in Florida. “He took away our livelihoods. He took away our future.”

Interspersed are shots of Romney saying “corporations are people, my friend,” a photo of Romney’s “$12 million California beach house” and a photo of a smiling Romney in a business suit having his shoes polished on an airplane runway.

Political payback
In a sense, the hard-hitting ad is political payback. Gingrich saw his support in Iowa cut in half — from a front-running 26 percent in early December to a disappointing fourth-place finish with 13 percent in this week’s caucuses — after a three-week ad blitz by a pro-Romney super PAC that attacked him for ethics violations and political flip-flops.

Story: Romney's steel skeleton in the Bain closet

Gingrich lashed out at Romney for not stopping the ads and initially vowed to run a “positive” campaign, saying he would disown any political supporters that ran negative ads. But after watching his campaign derailed, Gingrich has sharpened his own attacks — and Tyler, a former Gingrich spokesman who says he is taking his “cue” from his candidate, now says his group needs to “define” Romney.

"I think the voters will find this information very useful in making their decision and I think that's a positive thing," Tyler added when asked if we was now engaged in negative attacks. Unlike the "falsehoods" in the Romney super PAC attacks on Gingrich, the Bain Capital movie is "airtight, I've got all the documentation," he said.

Read more reporting from Michael Isikoff in 'The Isikoff Files'

The movie was made by Jason Killian Meath, a former associate in the firm of Stu Stevens, Romney’s longtime chief ad man. Meath worked on ads for Romney’s campaign in 2008. (Meith did not respond to a request for email comment Saturday.)

As first reported Friday night by Peter Boyer of The Daily Beast, the movie was commissioned by Barry Bennett, a conservative activist who heads Alliance for America’s Future, a group whose principals include Mary Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and which does not disclose its donors.

A former associate of Meith, who asked for anonymity, said he was baffled by the ad man’s role in making the movie especially because, he said, Meith had previously expressed an interest in working on Romney’s 2012 campaign. “I have no idea what happened here,” said the former associate. 

Boyer reported that Winning Our Future, the Gingrich super PAC, won a bidding war for rights to the movie on Friday, outbidding a super PAC associated with Jon Huntsman. Tyler said he did not directly “broker” the deal, but confirmed that Winning Our Future plans a major advertising buy in South Carolina to run 30-second excerpts from the movie.

But Tyler said he wants voters in New Hampshire — where Romney is the prohibitive front-runner — to see it as well. “I’m trying to save the people of New Hampshire from being embarrassed,” Tyler said. “When they see this movie, and see what a predator Romney is, they’re going to be embarrassed” for backing him.

Tyler declined to discuss where the Gingrich super PAC came up with the funds to buy its South Carolina ad spots. (Like other super PACs, which can take unlimited funds from wealthy donors and corporations, Winning Our Future is not required to disclose its contributors until the end of this month, after the early primaries are over.) But several political sources say that the super PAC has been in regular talks with Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire Las Vegas casino magnate. Adelson has been the principal financial backer of Gingrich in recent years, having pumped more than $7 million into Gingrich's main political organization.

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Video: Romney riding big wave of momentum

  1. Closed captioning of: Romney riding big wave of momentum

    >> analyst and james , gentlemen, good morning to you.

    >> thank you, alex.

    >> you've been covering presidential politics for years. tell me about the story lines from new hampshire .

    >> well, the big story line is going to be, can anybody stop mitt romney ? the campaign has played a strategy trying to win early because it counts more in terms of momentum and also having an eye on a longer term strategy. he may win this pretty quick but if it happens to go long term, he's in a position there, too. they run a far better campaign than everyone else and it shows and it's showing.

    >> james , your take on the take in new hampshire in this race. how do you read it?

    >> there's no question that it's going to be important. the fact was that we came into new hampshire thinking the big question was how big will mitt romney 's win here be? but that's not the question anymore. the question is, how well does rick santorum do? does he get close enough or happen to overcome ron paul in second place to get close enough to mitt romney that all of the other conservatives consolidate behind him and say, he's the guy that can stop mitt romney and right now it doesn't look like he can do that.

    >> james , you are there in new hampshire . why are you not talking about jon huntsman ? here's a guy that set up camp there. he's been trying to do his thing. do you think he has any potential to pull a santorum like he did in iowa?

    >> being a big advocate for new hampshire , would you like to say that jon huntsman is ignoring iowa to come and spend a lot of time here is going to work but the reality is it just didn't work. either it was the message or the campaign or it was the candidate but the jon huntsman idea that he could pull a santorum here has been largely buzz and not based on the facts on the ground .

    >> mark, what's your take on the huntsman situation?

    >> well, let's let the voters vote and see how he does. there's been a lack of a message and there's been a lack of a strong campaign. both nationally and on the ground. you can park your place in any state. if you don't have a national image or message, it's difficult to break through. they want to vote for somebody that has a possibility to be the nominee and a strong general election candidate. jon huntsman has put in a lot of time. he's yet to break through with the economy and issues that voters care about and electability.

    >> with romney being so dominant in this race -- and that's according to the polls. but with double the support of ron paul who is in second, how does one of these candidates go about taking mitt romney down?

    >> well, i think they need to be talking more about what they do for the economy and the country and less about process. and about the past. you hear these other republicans. first of all, still targeting each other more than they are targeting mitt romney . but when and if they decide to start targeting him, they should, again, be saying, this is why i would be a better president and why i have better ideas rather than newt gingrich talking about the ads have have been run against him. people want to know what you're going to do for the country and most people who attack and get ahead of mitt romney , they are slowing do down and have lost site of that.

    >> what about you, james ? who do you think can beat romney and how they go about doing that?

    >> if the voters are going to be looking at this in a different way 30% in our new hampshire poll, 37% had no idea who they are voting for in the new hampshire primary and these folks are trying to answer the question, how do i feel about mitt romney ? is he the guy that we're going to put up as the nominee? and if not mitt, then who? these candidates are going to be talking about process, and this campaign is about them and their vote.

    >> our lower third reads, is mitt romney unstoppable? how much do you think the campaign loves that?

    >> i wrote that lower third, alex.

    >> it's brilliant.

    >> i thought for a while when they were targeting each other, he's not going to be stopped here. i think based on the trajectory run he will come out stronger, not weaker. if the results do not show someone who is clear for the conservatives to rally around? i think they all go to south carolina and gives mitt romney to do something he didn't


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