Tea party Republican Matt Bevin, the Kentucky businessman running a primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has spent his professional career in finance, working for a series of firms and even starting his own business in 2003. In his campaign, Bevin talks up his career by saying he would bring his business know-how to Washington.
But Bevin doesn’t talk up the fact that he’s a finance guy, a field of work that hasn’t been popular with Americans since the nation’s biggest banks nearly toppled the economy five years ago. It wasn’t too long ago that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was relentlessly attacked for his work in private equity, which Democrats portrayed as helping the rich get richer by cutting jobs for working class Americans. In an interview Friday, Bevin defended his work in finance as very different from Romney’s.
“What I have done is very different than what he did,” Bevin said, referring to Romney. “Where he took the greatest amount of flack is for some of his involvement in private equity, where people come in and then sometimes are accused of putting profits above everything else and squeezing these little companies they bought and trying to make money out of them.”
But Bevin also defended the financial industry, saying anger toward Wall Street since the financial crisis is misplaced because the industry creates wealth and jobs. “People are angry at Wall Street, but often their investment plans, you know, are invested in the very companies that on the other hand they’re angry at,” Bevin said. “Have you ever been offered a job by a poor person? No one has. So, this class warfare against people who’ve managed to employ other people and create wealth and create jobs, I think is silly.”
Bevin described his career in investment consulting and management as a “very different world.” His early work, he said, was advising large endowments and pensions on how to best invest that money. He then transitioned from consulting to managing investments. Bevin founded Integrity Asset Management in 2003, which managed some of these large part of these large investment portfolios through buying and selling securities. “People came to us, they chose us over competitors, to be what they thought was the most appropriate manager of that slice of the pie,” he said. “And indeed we made significant sums of money for our customers. And I’m delighted by that.”
Though Bevin distanced his work from Romney’s private equity work, he also criticized what he saw as unfair attacks on Romney, Wall Street and the wealthy as partisan politics. “I don’t think that we hate all rich people, we just seem to hate conservative rich people,” he said.
Having grown up poor, Bevin said that rather than begrudged people who had money, he wanted to be like them. "I always said ... I want to be the one who creates jobs. I want to be the guy who develops the wealth of the nation," he said.