A much-anticipated ad campaign claiming that Mitt Romney helped to destroy businesses and kill jobs is set to hit the airwaves Thursday.
The ads, taken from a documentary called "King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town," have drawn criticism from some Republicans, who say they unnecessarily attack American capitalism and could help President Obama if Mr. Romney wins the Republican nomination.
But they are seen as one way the divided Republican field could haul Romney, now the clear front-runner after wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, back to the pack before the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary.
Here are the basics about the controversial campaign.
Question: Who is behind the ads?
Answer: A pro-Newt Gingrich super political-action committee, called Winning Our Future, bought the 27-minute "King of Bain" documentary, which is already available at kingofbain.com. While Twitter and other online social media are already pushing the digital message out, the TV and radio ad campaign – comprising various clips taken from the documentary – starts Thursday.
Question: What is so negative about this film?
Answer: The documentary profiles four companies that it argues were stripped and sold by Romney's venture-capital firm, Bain Capital, leaving many out of work and little if anything of value behind. The film details the hardships of those who were allegedly put out of work by Bain Capital.
Winning Our Future's Gregg Phillips calls this "the Romney treatment," and he denies the film is an attack on capitalism.
“This is not free-market capitalism,” says Mr. Phillips, a small business owner who says he owns a software firm. “Romney destroys businesses by sucking the cash out of the system.”
“This film shows just what he actually does,” he adds.
Question: Who made the movie?
Answer: The filmmaker behind it is Jason Killian Meath, who created ads for Romney’s failed run in 2008. He is a former associate of Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer, top Romney strategists, according to The Daily Beast. Mr. Meath did not return a call requesting clarification about why he made the anti-Romney film.
Question: How did the super PAC obtain the film?
Answer: According to Phillips, Meath’s associates reached out to Winning the Future this past week, offering the film for sale. After negotiations, “we bought the film on Thursday for an undisclosed sum," he says.
He denies reports that money from Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson was used to buy the film and would not discuss any donations to the super PAC by Mr. Adelson. However, according to Factcheck.org, IRS documents show that Adelson donated $7 million to a now defunct Gingrich super PAC called American Solutions for Winning the Future.
Media have widely reported that Adleson has donated $5 million to the current super PAC, making the $3.4 million ad buy in South Carolina possible.
Question: What does Romney say about the film?
Answer: Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, said 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 MoveOn.org. 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.”
Question: What are other Republicans saying?
Answer: Republican strategist David Johnson, who worked on Sen. Robert Dole’s 1988 presidential campaign, said this film could backfire for the Republican Party, while not helping Mr. Gingrich in his South Carolina bid.
“All this does is hand fodder to the Democrats for attacking Romney in the general election, and it reinforces the image of Gingrich as mean and too personal in his attacks on fellow Republicans,” he says.