(CNN) – Following fierce accusations from top Obama aides over Romney's tenure as head of Bain Capital, the Romney campaign fired back Thursday claiming the Obama team was being "reckless."
In a call with reporters, Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager to the President, cited a Boston Globe report that Mitt Romney was in control of the private equity company he helped found three years beyond 1999 – the year the Republican candidate says he left the company to lead the Salt Lake City Olympics. She said he could face criminal consequences for misrepresenting his time at the company.
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"Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments," said Cutter. "If that's the case, if he was lying to the American people, then that's a real character and trust issue that the American people need to take very seriously."
The Romney campaign was quick to respond to the highly-partisan criticism, issuing the following statement:
"President Obama's campaign hit a new low today when one of its senior advisers made a reckless and unsubstantiated charge to reporters about Mitt Romney that was so over the top that it calls into question the integrity of their entire campaign. President Obama ought to apologize for the out-of-control behavior of his staff, which demeans the office he holds. Campaigns are supposed to be hard fought, but statements like those made by Stephanie Cutter belittle the process and the candidate on whose behalf she works," said Matt Rhoades, Romney for President Campaign Manager.
According to the Boston Globe report Romney "said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm's 'sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.'"
The implication being that Romney would have been involved in Bain investment decisions that cut jobs during those years. This would be contrary to claims by Romney that he no longer was in control of the firm.
Romney's campaign was firm in pushing back on the report Thursday saying the SEC filings are "complicated" and "do not square with common sense in this case." The independent FactCheck.org also put out a statement standing by their assessment that Romney had in fact left operational control of Bain when he said he had.
On the call, Cutter also resurrected the issue of the release of Romney's tax returns, noting the precedent set by Romney's father, George Romney, who ran for president in 1968 and voluntarily releasing 12 years of tax returns.
Former Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri defended the former Massachusetts governor in another call to reporters Thursday. He said the Obama campaign and the White House are posing the issue of Romney's tax releases as a distraction to call the American people's attention away from other failures of this administration.
"This attempt in the White House to shift away from the real issues in the campaigning is getting to the point of being desperate," said Talent. "Going around these 'release his 2010 tax returns, his estimate for 2011,' he will release the rest of it when it's available and he's going to continue talking about the issues that matter to the American people."
Thus far, Romney has released his tax returns from 2010 and promises to release more taxes from 2011 once prepared.