Swiss bank accounts. Money hidden in the Cayman Islands. Bain capital income.
The Obama campaign warned Thursday that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will have full access to those three pots of money and more unless he puts his investments in a federally-recognized blind trust.
Seizing on the Romney campaign’s announcement Wednesday that the candidate would only turn his holdings over to a federal trust if and when he becomes president, the Obama campaign claimed that Romney’s decision not to do so sooner underscores the point they’ve been trying to make about him: He’s wealthy, which makes him out of touch, and sometimes evasive about his wealth, which makes him untrustworthy.
Because Romney’s current blind trust isn’t recognized by federal standards, under which trusts are overseen by the Office of Government Ethics, it isn’t really “blind” because Romney’s personal attorney, with whom Romney can easily communicate, oversees it, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt asserted today during a conference call with reporters.
(Politicians will place their personal assets in blind trusts to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest when they direct government funds to the private sector.)
“Romney has claimed that his investments were in a blind trust which was managed by his personal attorney. This gave him the appearance of keeping his investments at arms’ length. It’s also how he denied responsibility for investments in a Swiss bank account, Chinese companies, companies that do business with Iran and tax havens in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands,” LaBolt said.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Romney’s attorney R. Bradford Malt sold off stock in the Chinese companies and others that traded with Iran beginning in 2010 as the presidential election neared.
Romney’s lack of transparency over the trust raises other questions about his wider financial dealings, such as how close he remains to Bain Capital, Obama counsel Robert Bauer said on the call. Last week, Romney disclosed more than $2 million in new income from Bain, which he has not led in nearly a decade.
“Could it be that he’s still providing services in some sense even though he said he ceased providing services to Bain in 1999?“ Bauer asked.
Bauer said Romney should put his holdings in a federal blind trust now rather than wait until a potential presidential term begins if he has no qualms about relinquishing even more control over its contents.
“Why wouldn’t he, because these are grave issues, go ahead now and establish a blind trust that meets rigorous federal standards? There’s no requirement for him to wait and every reason for him not to wait.”
Romney campaign spokesperson Amanda Henneberg called the issue “another tired distraction by the Obama campaign,” adding in a written statement, “As has been reported for years, Governor and Mrs. Romney’s assets are managed on a blind basis. They do not control the investment of these assets, which are under the control and overall management of a trustee.”
President Obama never had a federal blind trust, his campaign said, because he had liquidated all of the stocks he previously held in a regular blind trust when he was a U.S Senator.
A New York Times article from March 2007 quoted then-candidate Obama saying that he had done so because, “I became concerned that I might not be able to insulate myself from knowledge of my holdings, that this trust instrument wasn’t working the way I wanted it to.”
The article said that from then forward, Obama’s holdings were kept in the form of mutual funds and a debt fund, which he said he thought were too diversified to need a blind trust.