Here's a story that may help New York Times columnist Gail Collins get over her obsession with the incident of Mitt Romney and the dog on the car.
In 1996, two years after Romney had returned to Bain Capital after running unsuccessfully against Ted Kennedy for Senate, Robert Gay, a partner at Bain, came to him and confided that his 14-year-old daughter Melissa was missing. She had sneaked out of their Connecticut home three days before, gone to a rock concert in New York City and hadn't been heard from since.
Gay was embarrassed about confessing his dilemma and didn't expect anything more than a little commiseration. Instead, he was amazed at Romney's reaction. The co-founder of Bain immediately informed the other partners of the situation, then closed down the firm and mobilized a temporary move to New York City to search for the girl. As the New York Times reported it at the time:
Bain Capitals Partners closed down the firm and drew on friendships and connections to find volunteers for the search. R.R. Donnelly, the firm's printer, printed more than 300,000 fliers bearing Ms. Gay's picture and last known whereabouts. Duane Reade, a drugstore chain in which Bain Capital is an investor, had clerks at 52 stores insert fliers in shopping bags. Price Waterhouse, which does the firm's accounting, sent nearly 100 volunteers to distribute the powers, and Goldman Sachs, Bankers Trust and Morgan Stanley dispatched more than 60 people.
Command centers to dispatch volunteers and get in touch with the press were set up at the Marriott Hotel and La Guardia Airport, the Connelly offices and the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan. Volunteers with cellular phones fanned out to clubs like the Limelight and the Tunnel, the Lollapalooza concert at Downing Stadium on Randall's Island, parties in Tompkins Square and Central Park, to Madison Square Garden and the Port Authority.
The Boston Globe, which covered the story day-to-day, filed the following report:
Yesterday, in their first day of searching, [Bain Executives] pounded the pavement, plastering the city with 300,000 fliers and quizzed teen-agers at concerts and parks.
But as of last night, Melissa Gay was nowhere to be found.
"Our children are what life is all about," said W. Mitt Romney, founder and managing partner at Bain Capital. "Everything else takes a back seat."
Six days later, the Marriott Hotline received an anonymous call from a teenage boy asking if there was a reward for the missing girl. The caller immediately hung up but police traced it to a house in Towaco, New Jersey. As the Globe reported:
[A]fter attending a rave concert on Randall's Island… she took the drug Ecstasy and then "wandered the city." During her wandering, her father said, she met a young man who took her to his parents' [New Jersey] home. The young man, whose name was not released, kept her in the home without his parents' knowledge, the police said.
Melissa was discovered hidden in the basement, still recovering from an overdose and shivering through detoxification. Doctors said later that had she not been found, she might not have lived another day.
Six months later, in a end-of-year review, the Globe again revisited the story:
Last week, the partners of Boston's Bain Capital Inc. drew up their annual list of accomplishments: Number one was the week they spent last July combing Manhattan in search of Melissa Gay, the missing 14-year-old daughter of one of the partners.
"It really overshadowed everything we did from a money standpoint," said Mitt Romney, the Bain Capital founder who won the 1994 Massachusetts Republican Senate nomination partly on his reputation as a venture capital wiz. "The days and nights spent looking for Missy Gay were more valuable than some financial home runs that made the front page of the Wall Street Journal. I mean, money is just money."
Nor were the Bain partners unaffected by their odyssey through the dark recesses of New York City:
"It was a shocker," [Romney] said. "The number of lost souls was astounding."
Romney said one partner still talks about a runaway he spoke with in search of information about Melissa.
"The girl asked, 'Why are you looking for her?' and he said, 'Because her parents miss her,'" Romney said. "She replied, 'I wish my parents missed me like that.'"
Romney has never made much of the incident, but in 2007 Gay insisted on making a commercial for the New Hampshire primary. He appeared on camera saying:
My business partner stepped forward to take charge. He closed the company and brought almost all our employees to New York. He said, "I don't care how long it takes, we're going to find her." He set up a command center and searched through the night. The man who helped save my daughter was Mitt Romney. Mitt's done a lot of things that people say are nearly impossible. But for me, the most important thing he's done is to help save my daughter.
Despite Romney's reticence, the story is beginning to make the rounds. It appeared on Snopes.com in January and was recently fact-checked by Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union, which found it is all true. The liberal press probably will ignore it as long as possible and then try to find some negative way to spin the story. One respondent on the Jacksonville website has already given it a try:
Romney had an unrealistic response to a bad situation. Flying 30 workers to NYC to search for a girl, shows his concern, but was a ridiculous waste of resources that turned out not to be needed. Not the response I would want from a President.
Still, it's a revealing candid shot of the Republican nominee for President.
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