TAMPA -- The Mitt Romney campaign offered up an inspirational tale of two local companies Wednesday as a way to cast President Barack Obama as an out-of-touch, big government apologist who doesn’t understand how business works.
One problem: The facts about the companies in many ways contradicted Romney’s point.
The campaign held a morning event to highlight A.D. Morgan Corporation and Value Enterprise Solutions as Florida small businesses that became successful because of the pluck of their owners and the benefits of the free enterprise system.
Government, in other words, had nothing to do with it.
But the Romney campaign couldn’t have picked more puzzling examples. Far from not needing big government, the Tampa companies have embraced government and benefited from it.
According to its website, A.D. Morgan — a construction firm — has received at least $150 million since 1999 for work on government buildings, prisons, schools and libraries. The figure represents only the total from the fraction of news releases that included a dollar figure. The company lists more than 130 projects that it has completed; nearly all of them are in the public sector.
Value Enterprise Solutions —an information technology company — boasts strong government bona fides, as well. Its Facebook page describes the company as “providing value added service/education to business, local government, federal government, Department of Defense and industry contract organizations.” The Facebook page also describes the company as a “minority/service disabled veteran owned small disadvantaged business.” That’s a designation that gives companies a special status, so in some cases they can be a lone bidder on a project. But that designation is recognized by government, not the private sector.
Despite that dependence on government largesse to supplant their bottom lines, the companies’ owners dismissed the role of government in their businesses.
“None at all,” said Value Enterprise’s owner, Lou Ramos, when asked if government played a role in the success of his company.
The 30-minute news conference was intended to highlight comments President Barack Obama made during a July 13 speech in Roanoke, Va.
During his speech, Obama spoke about how even the most successful business owners didn’t make it alone, that they were helped by others, including in some cases those in government.
But the Romney campaign is stressing one part of that speech, including a line where Obama stated, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Taken alone, that might mean Obama is refusing to award credit to business owners. When the entire section of the speech is included, it’s obvious what Obama’s point is.
“When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together,” Obama said at the same Virginia event.
To respond to Republican attacks, Obama’s campaign began airing a new TV ad this week in the battleground states of Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada, saying the “you didn’t build that” comment was taken out of context.
Romney and Republican surrogates, however, show no signs of dropping the issue.