The basher is back: Mitt Romney nemesis writes book

Randy Johnson still isn't done with Mitt Romney.

Johnson, a union organizer who is better known as the 20-year-long refractory critic of Romney's tenure at Bain Capital, recently published an autobiography detailing his experience as a political nettle in the Republican former Massachusetts governor's side.

Randy Johnson, a longtime critic of Mitt Romney and Bain.
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And it concludes with a would-be warning for 2016: "If Mitt Romney decides to seek political office again," Johnson writes, in emphasized italics, "I will be ready, as I always have been, as one of the standard bearers of truth for workers in America."

Johnson's fulmination might seem like the words of an addict were it not for recent chatter of a Romney presidential run, part trois. (CBS's Bob Schieffer cited an unnamed source last Sunday, saying Romney would consider a third bid at the White House if Jeb Bush decides not to run.)

Johnson said that's not the primary reason why he's published his book.

"In the end, my fight with Mitt Romney was never about an individual but rather about what that individual represented," he opines in "Forced Reckoning," which published April 15 for e-book and paperback.

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In an interview with CNBC.com this week, Johnson said the book gave him an opportunity to speak for the first time about the subject without the "voice of labor."

"Somebody from labor, writing a book, writes in 'wes,'" Johnson explained. "[With] this book, I had to learn it is 'my' book."

If nothing else, that transition proved successful.

"I believe that I'm a positive person," Johnson writes early on in the book. "I think that most readers of this book will understand and relate to how difficult it can be to stay upbeat with the pressures of daily life."

In terms of revelations about Romney or Bain, there's not much new to find here that Johnson hasn't already disseminated, ad nauseum, since Romney's 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy. The only arrow he says he kept, until now, in his quiver, isn't much of an arrow: An Ann Romney quote he clipped from an Oct. 22, 1994, story in The Boston Globe.

"Mitt was still in school and we had no income except the stock we were chipping away at," Ann Romney said at the time. "We were living on the edge, not entertaining."

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Johnson said the Obama campaign dissuaded him from invoking the remark while on the trail, citing the unspoken rules of keeping spouses off-limits.

The book details Johnson's time working at the former SCM Office Supplies plant in Marion, Indiana, which was acquired by the Bain Capital subsidiary Ampad in the early 1990s. Two years after taking over the unionized plant, Bain shut it down, just as Romney was preparing to challenge Kennedy for his Senate seat. Johnson subsequently became an unaffiliated surrogate of the Kennedy campaign, telling a story of Romney's corporate vulturism that he would continue to tell in each of Romney's subsequent political campaigns. In 2012, that found him front and center in the Democratic effort to discredit Romney's business background and paint him as an out-of-touch oligarch.

Johnson was even tapped by the Democratic National Committee to organize a group of former Ampad workers for an attack ad against Romney. In the book, he writes that he not only did assemble the group, but he conducted the interviews himself in his mother-in-law's house.

Beyond that, Johnson's book demonstrates the scattershot life of an in-demand surrogate, and how solicitous the DNC and Obama campaign were of their chief Bain basher—who, incidentally, was more than happy to be at their service.

"I think Randy was effective for three reasons: He was real, he was relentless with his story, and when Governor Romney ran away from his centrist health reform, the impact of his business record became a legitimate defining factor," said Ellen Qualls, who served as the Obama campaign's director of surrogate communications. "Randy gave a voice and a face to the 47 percent."

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Since the election, Johnson tells CNBC.com that he has returned his attentions almost exclusively to internal organizing within the United Steelworkers Union. Approaching his 60th birthday in August, he says he plans to retire from the labor organization later this year and do ad hoc consulting work.

Although he has little good to say about Bain in the book, he insists he has a measured look about the company he helped turn into Mitt Romney's presidential albatross.

"Bain Capital, there is a lot of good things they have done," Johnson told CNBC.com. "We are not against private equity: the problem—and this is the politician in Randy Johnson—is exposure, knowing who is investing in what."

—By Daniel Libit, special to CNBC.com.