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Romney's offshore finances spark new questions

<p>For a few weeks, Mitt Romney's offshore finances seemed like a big deal.</p>

For a few weeks, Mitt Romney's offshore finances seemed like a big deal. The Republican nominee is the first modern candidate to stash cash in the Cayman Islands and have a Swiss bank account for no apparent reason, and the fact that Romney has refused to release his readily-available tax returns only makes the story more alarming.

But in time, the issue faded. By the time the campaign filed Romney's personal financial disclosures to the Office of Government Ethics late on a Friday afternoon a month ago, the story barely caused a ripple.

The issue, however, appears to be making a comeback. Earlier this week, in a much-discussed piece for Vanity Fair, Nicholas Shaxson dug deeper into Romney's offshore finances, which "look pretty strange for a presidential candidate." A new Associated Press piece raises related questions.

For nearly 15 years, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's financial portfolio has included an offshore company that remained invisible to voters as his political star rose.Based in Bermuda, Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd. was not listed on any of Romney's state or federal financial reports. The company is among several Romney holdings that have not been fully disclosed, including one that recently posted a $1.9 million earning -- suggesting he could be wealthier than the nearly $250 million estimated by his campaign.The omissions were permitted by state and federal authorities overseeing Romney's ethics filings, and he has never been cited for failing to disclose information about his money. But Romney's limited disclosures deprive the public of an accurate depiction of his wealth and a clear understanding of how his assets are handled and taxed, according to experts in private equity, tax and campaign finance law.

The issue, of course, is not whether Romney is extremely wealthy or extremely wealthy. What matters here is the Republican presidential candidate's secrecy involving his overseas finances. We don't even know, for example, whether he's fully paid his tax bill.

The AP report added, "Romney's campaign declined to answer detailed questions from AP about Sankaty." Imagine that.

Looking ahead, there are a few straightforward questions the media can press Romney on: (1) Why did you park so much of your money outside the United States? (2) Did you create a Bermuda-based corporation to avoid U.S. taxes? and (3) when can Americans see the decades' worth of tax returns you turned over to John McCain in 2008?