FORTUNE – Last summer I wrote in this space that Mitt Romney's political ambitions would hurt private equity. What I didn't realize at the time was that private equity would also hurt politics.
We have come to expect a certain amount of half-truths and message spinning in our electoral discourse. But the emphasis by both candidates on Romney's private equity background, rather than on his gubernatorial record in Massachusetts, has opened the door to something quite different: bald-faced lies.
Private equity is an arcane, secretive business that even many financial professionals don't fully understand. And politicians are abusing that ignorance. They feel emboldened to say whatever suits their broader campaign narratives, confident that the vast majority of voters have neither the time nor the patience to study a subject that has no other relevance to their daily lives. What follows are some of the more egregious examples. They come not from talk radio hosts or blog commenters, but from the inner circles of power:
With two more months until the election, we'll surely have more private equity-related lies on the campaign trail. It isn't a partisan problem. It's a civic one.
Normally this is where the political press steps in, calling out untruths and holding their creators to account. Unfortunately, such folks have neither the knowledge nor the sources to adequately cover private equity issues. Major media could have done their readers and viewers a big favor by incorporating veteran business reporters into their campaign coverage. Sadly, that hasn't happened. Instead, the same folks who covered the previous presidential election are covering this one -- ignoring the elephantine variable that Romney represents.
I may be among the last Americans who still believe there is something noble about our political process -- that the majority of insiders are still more interested in helping people than in accumulating power for its own sake. But this campaign is severely testing that faith, particularly as a mocking tolerance of falsehoods persists. When both presidential candidates and the fourth estate conclude that facts are disposable, we've all lost.
In general, few private equity executives want to run for office. Too much scrutiny, too little money. But for those who do still harbor such ambitions, I sincerely hope that they direct their energies elsewhere. Their country needs them to.
This story is from the September 3, 2012 issue of Fortune.
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