Mitt Romney‘s campaign is amending the financial disclosure forms he filed in 2007 and 2011 to acknowledge that a Romney trust held a Swiss bank account, a detail that had been missing from both reports.
“An amendment is being filed to address this minor discrepancy,” a campaign official told ABC News in an email Thursday in response to questions about the apparent omission.
The discovery that the Romneys had $3 million in an account with the Swiss bank UBS came only after the Republican presidential candidate released his tax returns for 2010 on Tuesday. The campaign had maintained that it was not necessary to disclose the Swiss account because Romney’s money manager, Brad Malt, had shuttered it in early 2010.
Several Republican election lawyers told ABC News Thursday that the account still needed to be disclosed because a Romney trust earned about $1,700 in income on the account during 2010. The campaign’s decision to amend the forms was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
At the same time, questions from ABC News about undisclosed income that appeared on Newt Gingrich‘s tax return have led Gingrich to announce that he, too, will be amending his financial disclosure report. Gingrich’s returns showed he received $252,500 in wages from Gingrich Holdings Inc. in 2010, but those wages do not appear anywhere on his presidential disclosure report.
“An internal account review found the need to amend the reporting,” said a Gingrich campaign official. “It was done immediately.”
Romney also decided to amend the report from his 2007 run for president, a decision first reported by the New York Times. Those who track the finances of presidential candidates said they found the failures to disclose these key financial details distressing. Bill Allison, editorial director of the non-profit watchdog group the Sunlight Foundation, said the whole purpose of the disclosure reports is for candidates to provide an honest look at their finances to voters.
“Obviously, if you don’t give them the information before the vote, it defeats the whole purpose of disclosure,” Allison said.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of the non-partisan group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said she, too, was dismayed — noting that while in Congress, Gingrich had been called out for failing to include information on his disclosure reports.
“You’d think someone once sanctioned by the House of Representatives … would be a little more careful with his financial disclosure forms,” she said.
The discovery that Romney’s vast holdings included an account in Switzerland, a country long notorious for helping the very wealthy hide their assets, came during his release of his tax return earlier this week. Malt, who oversees Romney’s blind trusts, acknowledged during a conference call with reporters that he decided to shut down the Swiss account because he worried it could create a headache for Romney’s campaign. “It might or might not be consistent with Governor Romney’s political views,” he said. “The taxes were all fully paid … it just wasn’t worth it. And I closed the account.”
That suggests, Allison said, that the campaign had a motivation to exclude any evidence of the Swiss account from the candidate’s forms. The Romney campaign called the omission an oversight.
Allison noted that there is generally no penalty for a candidate who leaves something off a disclosure report, and then goes back to amend the report if the missing information is discovered.
“Nobody is going to get into trouble for this,” he said. “That is the problem with the disclosure system.”
By: Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross, The Blotter, ABC News, January 26, 2012
When Rick Perry was still in the presidential race, he angered some conservatives by asserting that if you oppose in-state tuition for illegal immigrants brought here as kids then “you don’t have a heart.” For normal politicians, it is folly to tell the base a position they hold is heartless.
But Newt Gingrich isn’t a normal politician. He is so expert at signaling tribal identification with conservatives that he can seemingly say or do anything without losing the ability to be competitive. In a past entry, I explained how the conservative movement made such a rise possible. Here I want to cite just one example of the ruinous (for them) dynamic that is beginning to result.
[Here] is a clip from Newt Gingrich’s appearance on Univision on Wednesday. Here’s the transcript:
INTERVIEWER: What do you think of Romney’s idea of self-deportation?
NEWT GINGRICH: I think you have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts — and automatic, you know, $20 million per year income with no work — to have some fantasy this far from reality.
Remember that I talk, very specifically, about people who have been here for a long time. Who are grandmothers and grandfathers who have been paying their bills, they’ve been working, they’re part of the community. Now for Romney to believe that somebody’s grandmother is going to be so cut off that she’s going to self-deport? This is an Obama-level fantasy.
INTERVIEWER: You call him anti-immigrant.
NEWT GINGRICH: Well he certainly shows no concern for the humanity of people who are already here. I mean, I just think the idea that we’re going to deport grandmothers and grandfathers is a sufficient level of inhumanity — first of all it’s never going to happen.
1. Isn’t it amazing to see Newt Gingrich soar in a Republican primary even as he asserts that (a) rich guys are so clueless it’s like they live in a fantasy world and (b) investing money and earning a return on it is tantamount to “no work”? Isn’t it stranger still that while saying all this he accuses President Obama of class warfare?
2. Isn’t it amazing that Gingrich can surge in a GOP primary even as he suggests that wanting to deport illegal immigrants is inhumane, even anti-immigrant? His base has a hair-trigger sensitivity to being accused of xenophobia, and supports deporting all illegal immigrants; yet somehow Gingrich gets away with saying this on Univision. Had Jon Huntsman done the same he’d have been excoriated.
3. The idea of self-deportation spurred by better workplace enforcement — the Mitt Romney position — is in fact the mainstream position of illegal-immigration restrictionists, who mostly insist that the specter of mass deportations are a straw man conjured up by the left to scare people. And it is in fact the case that if you make it more difficult for folks without documents to get jobs, many of them will leave, having come here with the express hope of earning American wages.
4. Under Romney’s plan, which is clearly targeted at working-age adults, illegal immigrant grandparents who’ve been here for many years are in fact the least likely people to be bothered, yet Gingrich talks as if they’re the focus of Romney’s plan.
5. Even Gingrich’s demagoguery is inconsistent, for he isn’t willing to affirm that illegal-immigrant grandparents who’ve been here for some time should be given amnesty. He’d instead create a series of citizen panels modeled after the draft boards of the World War II era that would sit in judgment of whether these longtime residents got to stay or go, presumably sending some of them home. I wonder how Gingrich would respond if a debate moderator pointed out that his plan would deport some longtime residents and called him anti-immigrant and inhumane?
This is but one example of what the right can expect so long as Newt Gingrich is around. Because his appeal is grounded in tribal solidarity — because what people like about him is his ability to lash out at the mainstream media, the cultural elite, and President Obama — he can stray from conservative orthodoxy and policy far more than any other candidate and still retain his support. It’s a more extreme version of what happened during the Bush era. Republicans elected the guy with whom they wanted to have a beer, and since they felt in their gut he was one of them, he spent years advancing an agenda that would’ve drawn cries of tyranny had a Democrat tried it.
Gingrich backed that Bush-era agenda. And if he’s elected president expect him to do all sorts of things that conservatives complain about after the fact, when they realize that they’ve been had again.
By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, January 25, 2012
Last July, Major League Baseball blew an opportunity to make a difference. With 28 players who were either Hispanic or of Hispanic descent participating in the league’s annual All-Star Game in Phoenix, Arizona, and the eyes of the sports world watching, nary a one spoke out against the radical anti-immigration law Arizona had passed a year before, even though it could have directly affected the players and will directly affect many of their fans. “I ain’t Jackie Robinson,” David Ortiz, one of baseball’s biggest characters, said.
Over the next 10 days, the National Football League will have a similar chance to make a difference.
Just two weeks before Super Bowl XLVI kicks off at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, more than 10,000 people marched through the city to protest right-to-work legislation that is being pushed through the state’s legislature. The legislation passed the state Senate this week and the state House today, and is backed by Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). Considering the NFL nearly lost its 2011 season, and Super Bowl XLVI with it, to a labor dispute, Indiana Republicans’ assault on workers is a cause the players should be familiar with.
Fortunately, there are signs that the NFL players aren’t going to repeat Major League Baseball’s mistake. Several players have spoken out against the legislation, and NFL Players Association President DeMaurice Smith said his organization is already taking action. “We’ve been on picket lines in Indianapolis already with hotel workers who were basically pushed to the point of breaking on the hotel rooms that they had to clean because they were not union workers,” Smith told the Nation. “We’ve been on picket lines in Boston and San Antonio. So, the idea of participating in a legal protest is something that we’ve done before.”
That’s a good first step. But it’s not enough. Indiana union officials are contemplating disrupting Super Bowl-related events to draw attention to their cause, clogging city streets and slowing down events around Lucas Oil Stadium (which was built and is maintained by union workers). Labor leaders are hesitant, though, fearing that such actions could give the city and their cause “a black eye” with people who think sports and politics don’t mix. If some of the league’s top players, particularly those participating in the Super Bowl, spoke in support of those efforts, however, that perception could change.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, one of the NFL’s most recognizable players, felt strongly enough about his own rights that he signed on as a plaintiff in the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league last year. So did Logan Mankins, Brady’s teammate, and Osi Umenyiora, a prominent defensive end for the New York Giants. Those players were willing to risk backlash from the league, public scrutiny, and their own images to fight league owners for better benefits and wages. In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, they should do the same for workers who don’t have the luxury of multimillion-dollar contracts, rich endorsement deals, and the good fortune of playing a game for a living.
Sure, with Super Bowl week ahead of them, political causes may be the furthest thing from the minds of most players. But with thousands of reporters conducting hundreds of interviews before, during, and after the big game, the players will have the chance to stand up for the rights of people they should be fighting for. Unlike their counterparts in baseball, they shouldn’t blow it.
By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, January 25, 2012
Republicans are clearly not too enthused about Mitt Romney. Nor are they wild for any of the alternatives. This week Ross Douthat wrote a column arguing that it’s no surprise the current crop of Republican presidential candidates is no great shakes since, well, great presidential candidates are pretty rare animals. He then wrote a blog post arguing that the whole problem could have been avoided if the better Republican candidates, particularly Mitch Daniels, hadn’t decided not to run this year. Daniel Larison ridicules this notion; the fantasy candidates, he says, look strong because they haven’t been subjected to the withering attacks real candidates have to face. The ones Mr Douthat touts “don’t have the qualifications that Romney has, they all have their own weaknesses with conservatives and/or with the general electorate, and all of them decided for various reasons to save themselves the trouble, toil, and humiliation that a presidential bid would have entailed.”
Jonathan Bernstein takes Mr Larison’s point a step further and imagines what it would have taken to give Republicans a candidate they could get enthusiastic about.
What Republicans could have used both this cycle and last is a candidate who raised no suspicion from any important party faction and also had conventional credentials. Rick Perry, Tim Pawlenty, and perhaps Fred Thompson all came close, but none of them really achieved that. Given the GOP’s wild pivots on so many issues over the last decade, perhaps no one can, and someone like Romney — who holds orthodox views on all issues right now, but hasn’t for long enough to build long-term trust — is the best they can do.
This is an extremely important point to keep in mind. Mitt Romney looks like a weak phony in this election campaign because he has to pretend to believe with all his heart in orthodox tea-party conservative positions that he transparently doesn’t really believe in. We know this because in the past, Mr Romney supported health-care reform including an individual mandate along the lines of the system he instituted in Massachusetts, essentially the same system as Obamacare. And in the past, he supported a cap-and-trade system for limiting greenhouse-gas emissions to address climate change. But at the time, both of those were orthodox Republican Party positions. The fact that they are anathema today is a legacy of the reactionary fury that has driven the party for the past three years. Conservative voters responded to their epic loss in 2008 with a partisan kulturkampf that labeled every major initiative launched by the Obama administration socialism, and declared the very existence of global warming to be some kind of Communist-scientist hoax. There were very few established Republican politicians who hadn’t taken positions in the George W. Bush era (or the Newt Gingrich era!) that pose ideological problems for them in the tea-party era. Mr Gingrich himself can fleetingly outrun the problem because, like most voters, he has the long-term intellectual consistency of a goldfish. But YouTube never forgets.
Republicans’ disenchantment with their current presidential candidates is not an incidental characteristic of this crop of candidates. It’s a structural feature of a contemporary Republican Party whose pieces don’t hang together. Pro-Iraq-war neoconservative Republicans cannot actually live with Ron Paul Republicans. Wall Street-hating anti-bail-out Republicans cannot actually live with Wall Street-working bail-out-receiving Republicans. Evangelical-conservative Republicans cannot actually live with libertarian, socially liberal Republicans. Deficit-slashing Republicans cannot live with tax-slashing Republicans. Medicare-cutting Republicans cannot live with Medicare-defending Republicans. These factions have been glued together over the past three years by the intensity of their partisan hatred for Barack Obama, and all of the underlying resentments that antipathy masks. Republicans have buried their differences by assaulting everything Mr Obama supports, and because Mr Obama is a pretty middle-of-the-road politician, that includes a whole lot of things that many Republicans used to support. They are disenchanted with their candidates because their candidates are incoherent, but their candidates are incoherent because the base is incoherent. If the GOP wins this election, the party’s leaders are going to be confronted with that incoherence pretty quickly. Unfortunately, so will the rest of us.
By: M.S., Democracy in America, The Economist, January 24, 2012
Mitt Romney’s campaign has tried desperately to put a lid back on the can of worms that burst open weeks ago when the one-time GOP presidential front runner declined to release any of his tax returns.
But by actually releasing his 2010 return, and an estimation of his 2011 return, camp Romney has provided reporters with some, but not all, of the answers they’re looking for as they try to paint a complete picture of the finances of one of the wealthiest candidates for President in U.S. history.
Romney’s revelations confirm that his effective tax rates in the past couple years have been as low or lower than those of workers with truly modest means. They also confirm that he’s availed himself of truly complex tax strategies designed to boil his liability down to the lowest level allowed by the country’s heavily rigged, labyrinthine tax code. And we know, too, that these are things Romney didn’t want voters to know — at least not yet.
But they raise a series of new questions that will likely require Romney to disclose several years’ worth of additional tax returns if he wants to answer them satisfactorily. Here are three big ones that touch generally on the theme of Romney’s efforts to reduce his tax burden by taking advantage of areas of the law that simply aren’t available to most people.
How Low Do They REALLY Go
Romney’s effective tax rate was 13.9 percent of his adjusted gross income (AGI) in 2010, and is expected to be slightly higher in 2011. Set aside for now the fact that for a high net worth individual like Romney, AGI often understates what you might call “true” income — meaning these effective tax rates probably overstate Romney’s 2010 and 2011 tax liability. It turns out that in 2009, in the wake of the financial crisis, Romney very likely managed to get his effective tax rate much lower than 13.9 percent. In 2010, Romney carried over $4.9 million in capital losses from 2009. This is a consequence of the tax code’s leniency toward investors who take hits in bad years. But as tax lawyer Ed Kleinbard told reporters during a Tuesday conference call organized by the DNC, “that means he paid no tax on any of his capital gains in 2009, including tax on his carried interest in 2009.” That’s not necessarily because Romney actually lost money in 2009, either. As Kleinbard explained, a common tactic for Americans with capital gains is to “harvest” — by selling off certain investments that lose value investors can count the losses against gains elsewhere in their portfolios. If those losses exceed the gains by more than a certain amount, they roll over into the following tax cycle. Unless Romney had significant sources of non-investment income, that suggests his effective tax rate in 2009 was much lower than 13.9 percent. And remember, he jokes he’s been unemployed for years.
That UBIT Bit
One of camp Romney’s chief claims has been that his offshore investments haven’t been covers for deferring or avoiding U.S. taxation. But as described, here, there is one tax strategy that could have allowed Romney to avoid a big, 35 percent tax on unrelated business income, as it pertains to his massive individual retirement account — if that account is invested in an offshore entity. When asked Tuesday if Romney has ever benefited from this strategy, his trust adviser Brad Malt said, “I don’t know the answer to that — let us get back to you on that.” We haven’t received an answer yet, but we’ll pass it along when we get it.
Romney’s 2010 tax return reveals a Swiss bank account. “It is listed because I set that account up for diversification in 2003 when I became trustee of the blind trusts,” Malt said. “It is a bank account. Nothing more, nothing less. An ordinary bank account. It earns some income which is fully reported on the form 1040. In the 2010 tax return, you’ll see approximately $1,700 in interest earned by this account, which is reported. The tax is fully paid just as if this were a U.S. bank account. Nothing more complicated than that. By the way, I did close this account in early 2010. It no longer exists.”
Some reports suggest that the account was closed for political reasons, but Malt said “I regularly review Governor Romney’s investments just in connection with my periodic reviews, I decided that this account wasn’t serving any particular purpose….Again, taxes were all fully paid etc. But it just wasn’t worth it. And I closed the account.” Tax experts have noted to TPM in recent days that U.S. law changed shortly before then, to make it harder for U.S. persons to avail themselves of tax havens. Shortly thereafter the IRS gave people secreting their money abroad a time window for compliance. Taking camp Romney at its word, that wasn’t really their concern. Even if the account existed for purposes of diversification that could be politically embarrassing in and of itself, constituting a bet against U.S. currency. But to fully answer the question, we’d need to know if that bank account is declared in the years before the law changed. Camp Romney did not respond to a request for comment on this point Tuesday.
By: Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo, January 25, 2012