Voters in South Carolina are about to witness an attack on Mitt Romney and the work of a private equity firm that made him wealthy and has provided the underpinnings for his appeal to voters.
The assault will come Monday in the form of a planned $1-million-plus advertising campaign. The effort, which may expand to other states, is sponsored by an independent political group backing Newt Gingrich that has received donations from some of the country's most ardent conservatives.
FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this story said that the pro-Gingrich super PAC financing the anti-Romney ad campaign was named Winning America's Future. The super PAC's name is Winning Our Future.
The group, Winning Our Future, promises a sustained attack on Romney and the company he formed, Bain Capital. "We will buy whatever it takes to get people to understand Romney's real record of deliberate job destruction," said Rick Tyler, a longtime Gingrich aide who works now as a senior adviser to the "super PAC" backing the former House speaker.
The ads are expected to focus on the plight of workers who were laid off after their employers were purchased by Bain Capital. Romney founded the venture capital company in 1984 after working for the Bain consulting firm, and throughout the campaign he has boasted of the jobs he created during his tenure.
Anger at Romney and others in the financial elite has been roiling throughout this election season. But the criticism has come mostly from the left. Next week's wave of complaints are an attempt to spread the anger among Republicans, in whose hands Gingrich's future rests.
In recent days, Romney has sought to distinguish his background by defending his brand of capitalism and scoring President Obama for what he terms "crony capitalism" — using government resources to benefit firms and organizations that back his political career.
"This is not capitalism," Tyler said Saturday of Bain's record. "This is predatory paper-shuffling."
The new effort drew a harsh response from Romney backers.
"It's puzzling to see Speaker Gingrich and his supporters continue their attacks on free enterprise," said Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "… 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."
Gingrich came in for harsh criticism several weeks ago when he raised questions about job losses resulting from leveraged buyout deals in which Romney took part at Bain Capital.
The disagreement underscores a divide among Republicans like Romney, who defend the behavior of Wall Street entrepreneurs, and others who have been seething at some activities of the financial elite.
The ads rely on footage from a film critical of Romney that was just completed by a former Romney ally, Jason Meath, who collaborated in 2008 with Romney adviser Stuart Stevens to produce pro-Romney ads.
The film, called "When Mitt Romney Came to Town," focuses on four companies that Bain Capital took over in the 1980s and 1990s. It includes interviews with workers and residents in Marion, Ind., where a plant owned by Ampad, a paper products company, was shut down after Bain Capital acquired the firm.
"Wall Street's corporate raiders made billions of dollars," an announcer intones at the beginning of the film, citing the "greed" of Wall Street's leveraged buyout firms. "Nothing mattered but profits. This film is about one such raider and his firm."
The film weaves footage of Romney's plush homes with interviews with laid-off workers. It also includes an old gag photo of Romney and his Bain partners stuffing their pockets — and even one man's mouth — with money.
"I think he is a money man and he is going to look out for the money people," said one woman. "... He doesn't look out for us."
A super PAC organized by former Romney aides has aired withering ads against Gingrich that were credited with cutting the former House speaker's support in the Iowa caucuses, where he placed fourth. Legally, super PACs are not allowed to work with the candidate's official campaign.