If Sunday show watchers turned on their TVs yesterday, expecting to see Democrats on the offensive over Friday’s jobs report, they may have been surprised. Prominent Democratic voices, displaying a level of message discipline that’s highly unusual for their party, instead focused in on one lingering issue: what’s with Mitt Romney’s offshore finances?
Democrats were unrelenting on this issue. Of particular interest was this comment from Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association: “I’ve never known of a Swiss bank account to build an American bridge, a Swiss bank account to create American jobs, or Swiss bank accounts to rebuild the levies to protect the people of New Orleans. That’s not an economic strategy for moving our country forward.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) added, “When it comes down to his Swiss bank account, there’s just no way to explain it.”
That’s true, and it’s more than a throwaway line. On ABC’s “This Week,” host Terry Moran asked Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a leading Romney surrogate, three times to explain the Republican candidate’s offshore investments. In each instance, Jindal changed the subject, unsure what to say.
What’s fascinating, though, is that the adjectives didn’t come with accompanying nouns. What is it, exactly, about the questions that are “false”? The Romney campaign won’t say. Why are the questions “ridiculous”? The Romney campaign won’t say. Why is the issue “disgusting”? The Romney campaign won’t say.
Offshore financing may seem like a complex issue – and complicated questions tend to get overlooked during a presidential campaign – but there are some basic questions here that should be fairly easy for anyone to understand.
Let’s make this really easy:
1. Why did Romney feel the need to create a shell corporation in Bermuda, then quickly move it into his wife’s name the day before he was sworn in as governor?
2. Why did Romney feel the need to put millions of dollars in the Cayman Islands?
3. Why did Romney feel the need to keep a Swiss bank account?
4. Has there ever, in American history, been a major-party presidential candidate who didn’t want to keep his money in American banks?
5. If Romney wasn’t trying to avoid U.S. taxes, why won’t he release his readily-available tax returns and clear the air?
The Obama campaign’s Ben LaBolt put out a video statement yesterday, which was pretty brutal: “Mitt Romney is effectively saying he hasn’t technically broken any laws by keeping his money in offshore tax havens. Here’s the question: is not technically breaking the law a high enough standard for someone who wants to be president of the United States? Look, this is crazy – it isn’t too much to ask that a candidate for president explain why he chose to invest in other countries known as tax havens rather than in the United States.”
In fairness, there may be a persuasive explanation for all of this. I don’t know what it might be, but it certainly may exist. But therein lies the rub: the Romney campaign isn’t even trying to answer the questions, which only makes the underlying issue more intriguing.
Disclosure and transparency can make these questions go away quite quickly, but Team Romney has so far refused requests for information. I wonder why that is.