Mitt Romney's massive fortune is once again in the spotlight as two recent reports highlighted his offshore accounts and raised questions about how much the Republican presidential candidate has revealed about his various assets.
An AP report released Wednesday pays particular attention to Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd., a Bermuda-based company that was transferred to a trust under Ann Romney's name the day before her husband became governor of Massachusetts in 2003.
From the AP:
The Bermuda company had almost no assets, according to Romney's 2010 tax returns. But such partnership stakes could still provide significant income for years to come, said tax experts, who added that the lack of disclosure makes it impossible to know for certain.
The candidate's 2010 tax returns listed at least 20 investment holdings besides Sankaty that had not been previously disclosed on federal reports. At least seven were foreign investments. Bain Capital Inc., the holding that posted the $1.9 million earning, was listed on Romney's state ethics reports in 2001 and 2002, when he ran for governor, but was missing from any annual ethics report until Romney's trust included it last month on his 2012 financial statement.
An August Vanity Fair article released earlier this week on Mitt Romney's offshore accounts is also helping Democrats keep up their critique of the former governor as an out-of-touch rich guy who only cares for the 1%. The Obama campaign released a statement following the Vanity Fair piece questioning Romney's offshore accounts as "hedging against the dollar" and once again insisting that he release his tax returns.
And now the president is on a two-day bus trip in Ohio and Pennsylvania dubbed the "Betting on America" tour.
Romney has released only one year of his tax returns and an estimate for 2011—which showed his tax rate to be about 14%, lower than many other wealthy Americans—despite pressure from both the left and the right.
Both articles are careful to point out that it does not appear Romney has broken the law in any way regarding his investments or his failure to disclose certain aspects. And Romney continues to defend his offshore dealings as being part of a blind trust, which makes financial decisions for him so he does not compromise his political life. But, his continued reticence will only fuel further speculation over not only the candidate's wealth, but how he made it and what he's hiding.
Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist, explained how the secrecy around Romney's wealth impacts voters' perception of him. “They think this is a candidate who is out of touch and doesn’t understand them,” he said Tuesday on MSNBC's NewsNation.
A point not lost on the Obama re-election strategists.
"Campaigns, especially presidential elections, are battles between narratives. Each campaign is trying to define themselves, trying to define their opponent," Kofinis added. "When you look at Governor Romney and the issues that have come up—that he pays a lower tax rate than most Americans, that he has these offshore accounts, that he has outsourced jobs—it creates a really damaging narrative. And the Romney campaign through their silence, and I would say missteps, have not filled that void."
Nia-Malika Henderson, national political reporter with Washington Post, also appearing on NewsNation, agreed.
"[The Romney campaign] has this sense that Americans don’t really care about this," she said. "The problem is you’re going to see Democrats twin this narrative about offshore bank accounts with this narrative out of Bain [Capital] and this whole idea that Mitt Romney doesn’t need to play by the rules."
Even The Wall Street Journal knows this is a dangerous narrative that Romney is playing into. In an Op-Ed Wednesday, the Journal noted that "the Obama campaign is assailing Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch rich man, and the rich man obliged by vacationing this week at his lake-side home with a jet-ski cameo" a reference to the candidate's recent vacation activities.
And from Vanity Fair:
While the Romneys’ spokespeople insist that the couple has paid all the taxes required by law, investments in tax havens such as Bermuda raise many questions, because they are in “jurisdictions where there is virtually no tax and virtually no compliance,” as one Miami-based offshore lawyer put it.
That’s not the only money Romney has in tax havens. Because of his retirement deal with Bain Capital, his finances are still deeply entangled with the private-equity firm that he founded and spun off from Bain and Co. in 1984. Though he left the firm in 1999, Romney has continued to receive large payments from it—in early June he revealed more than $2 million in new Bain income. The firm today has at least 138 funds organized in the Cayman Islands, and Romney himself has personal interests in at least 12, worth as much as $30 million, hidden behind controversial confidentiality disclaimers. Again, the Romney campaign insists he saves no tax by using them, but there is no way to check this.