Is Mitt Romney still in the running? While at the moment the presidential race seems to be neck-and-neck, I think Romney may have just pulled up lame. Meanwhile, the Democrats have trotted out their political thoroughbred, Bill Clinton, who seems to be kicking up his heels and feeling frisky.
Here’s what Clinton said on NBC’s Today show about Romney’s tax returns: “I am a little surprised he only released a year’s worth of tax returns. That kind of perplexed me, because this is the first time in, I don’t know, more than 30 years that anybody running for president has only done that. You know, it’s typical we all release 10, 11 years; I think Senator McCain released over 20 years of tax returns.” And of course Romney’s father set the national precedent by voluntarily releasing 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in 1968.
Here’s the real stunner. On the morning of July 12, speaking on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid made this remarkable statement: “His father, George Romney, set the precedent that people running for president would file their tax returns, let everybody look at them, but Mitt Romney can’t do that because he’s basically paid no taxes in the prior 12 years.”
How could Reid know if Romney failed to pay taxes for 12 years? One possibility is that the word leaked out after Romney disclosed 23 years of returns to John McCain, when Romney was under consideration to be McCain’s running mate. If that’s true, this would explain why McCain chose Sarah Palin over Romney, and why Romney refuses to release more returns.
But Romney may now have bigger fish to fry than worrying about the presidency, such as staying out of jail if he illegally evaded taxes. While the evidence is not conclusive, due to the undisclosed returns, it seems Romney may have sheltered up to $100 million of his personal fortune in offshore “IRA” accounts, according to reputable news services like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME, Reuters, CBS News and Huffington Post.
If what Romney did was on the up-and-up, he should just say, “Look, what I did was perfectly legal, but it is unfair to other American taxpayers, and we need to fix the unfair tax system and close the loopholes.” But by refusing to disclose his taxes, he gives the impression that he did something wrong and fears what would happen if he told the truth.
For example, an investment vehicle called the Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd. has been described in securities filings as a “Bermuda corporation wholly owned by W. Mitt Romney.” Romney transferred his wife’s newly created blind trust to Sankaty the day before he was sworn in as governor of Massachusetts. Sankaty’s director and president is R. Bradford Malt, Romney’s lawyer. Romney failed to list Sankaty on several financial disclosures, even though such a closely held vehicle would seemingly not qualify as an investment fund excepted from disclosures.
Sankaty, however, was only made public when Romney disclosed his 2010 tax return, after being pressured to do so during the debates. Having most or much of his wealth in offshore tax shelters could easily explain Romney’s fish-out-of-water act. Surely the American public has the right to know why a man running for president has offshore accounts that give every appearance of being part of a shell game to avoid U.S. income taxes. Is there any reason to create shell companies in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, other than to avoid U.S. laws and taxes?
And there is good reason to question whether Romney’s “blind” trusts are really blind. One of the investments that Malt made with Romney’s “blind” trust was to put $10 million in Solamere, a company co-founded by Romney’s son Tagg and Romney’s campaign finance chair, Spencer Zwick. The Solamere investment strongly suggests that Romney’s “blind” trust is operating under Romney’s watchful eye. And if you don’t believe me, please consult an expert: in 1994, Mitt Romney explained that the “blind trust” is an “age old ruse!”
Is Romney electable? Joe Scarborough, one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world, recently said, “I have yet to meet anybody in the Republican establishment that worked for George W. Bush, that works in the Republican Congress, [or] that worked for Ronald Reagan that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election.”
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.