Romney, the Marriotts, and Situational Ethics

The following appeared in Time magazine (3 Sept 2012):

More than once, according to [Geoffrey] Rehnert and [Marc] Wolpow (Mitt Romney’s colleagues at Bain Capital), someone brought up Colt’s and Remington as prospects.  Each time the result was the same.  “No way we could do deals with rifle manufacturers,” Wolpow says.  Romney never spoke of his reasons, and he did not use his deciding vote to forbid the transactions directly.  “He’d raise rhetorical questions,” Wolpow says.  “‘Do you think our investors would like this?  Could there be reputational risks for Bain Capital?’  And most of the partners agreed with that.”

Lucrative tobacco opportunities came and went as well.  RJR Nabisco had a leveraged buyout, tobacco-leaf dealer W.A. Adams changed hands in a private sale, and American Brands sold off its tobacco division.  Brown & Williamson gave up most of its discount cigarette brands, and a deal for the Miami permium cigarmaker went begging until a Swedish firm stepped in.  Romney stayed far away.

According to Rehnert, “stuff like tobacco and gambling,” along with gun companies, had “a personal yuck factor” at the partners’ table.  “Do you want to make money doing something that feels gross?” he asks.  “There was also how investors feel about things.  Do you really want to be doing things that you’re not proud to talk to your friends and family about, much less investors?  At the end of the day, there are a lot of ways to make money, and there was a culture at the firm that people didn’t want to make money off other people’s misery.”

I don’t know that much about Bain Capital, but I suspect that the company did a lot of things that caused “other people’s misery.”  So even though the company was allegedly clean on guns, tobacco, and gambling, they weren’t so clean on human suffering in other areas (like reduction-in-force, lose or reduction of health benefits, union busting, etc.)

Then there are the years when Romney was on the Board of Directors of Marriott International.  And, of course, we all know that they are in the alcohol delivery and gambling business.  And until recently, they were in the pornography dispensing racket (they apparently gave it up last year).  We also know that the Marriott brothers are Mormon and that they are each worth more than $1B.  In fact, Mitt gets his first name Willard from the Marriott father.

Romney was on the Marriott’s board for 12 years.  During some of that time he was chairman of the board’s audit committee.  Yet Romney asserted he did not recall pornography coming up in discussions while he was on the Marriott board.  He also claimed that he was unaware of how much revenue pornography may have generated for the hotel chain.  According to, Romney stated:

I am not pursuing an effort to try and stop adults from being able to acquire or see things what I find objectionable; that’s their right.

The problem with this statement is that it skirts the issue of profiting off pornography.  How were the Marriotts different from the guy down the street selling pornographic materials?

In June 2000, one of the Marriott brothers defended the distribution of pornographic movies, saying they were inseparable from the rest of the chain’s TV offerings:

The in-room entertainment operators who provide our systems rely upon a certain volume of movie types in order to economically viable.  If we were to eliminate the ‘R’ and non-rated offerings, the systems would not be economical.

This entry was posted in Entertainment, mormonism, Personalities, Social Justice. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Romney, the Marriotts, and Situational Ethics

  1. Pingback: Main Street Plaza » Sunday in Outer Blogness: Modern Revelation Edition!

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