The Obama reelection campaign on Thursday blasted Republican challenger Mitt Romney for his decision to delay putting his considerable financial assets into a federally qualified blind trust before the presidential election.
“It’s something I’ve never seen,” said Robert Bauer, general counsel for Obama for America. “We have a presidential candidate who has sort of an ongoing investment activity not shielded rigorously from view to a true blind trust arrangement.”
The former Massachusetts governor's assets are currently placed in a blind trust managed by his attorney, but that arrangement does not meet federal blind-trust standards for impartiality. Federally qualified blind trusts aim to shield federal officeholders from conflicts of interest.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Associated Press, “If Governor Romney is elected president, his blind trust will be terminated and a new federal blind trust will be created. Any assets that are not fully compliant with federal disclosure and other rules applicable to the office of the presidency will be disposed of.”
“The choice he’s made is to have a blind trust that is not quite a blind trust — not certainly by federal standards,” Bauer said in a conference call with reporters.
Obama’s campaign has sought to cast Romney as a ‘corporate buyout specialist,’ a multimillionaire who personally profits from low tax rates and doesn’t care about the little guy. Exit polls in the Wisconsin recall election suggest that the casting of Obama as a warrior for the middle class has earned him support among a large segment of voters, although some prominent Democrats have questioned the wisdom of attacking Romney’s career at the helm of Bain Capital.
News that Romney has interests in a Bain Capital partnership in the Cayman Islands, an offshore tax haven, raise questions about his ongoing involvement with Bain, Obama campaign officials said.
“There has to be some reason for the preferential tax treatment that he’s receiving,” Bauer said of Romney. The Cayman Islands agreement, made years after Romney left the company, raises the question of whether Romney is still providing services to Bain in some way, he said.
Bauer also called on Romney to release more information about his personal finances, as campaign officials have done repeatedly in the past. Tax documents he has released show the candidate with an income of about $230 million in 2011, mostly from his many investments.
“The problem that we face here in sort of fleshing this out is that we don’t know and he won’t tell us,” Bauer said. Romney has established “a pattern of withholding information,” he said, naming Romney’s reluctance to release his multiple years of his tax returns and his retirement agreement with Bain.
Saul said in statement in response to Bauer:
“Another day, another tired distraction by the Obama campaign, which is frantic to avoid discussing the continued rejection of President Obama’s agenda by the electorate and by members of his own party.
“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.”
The Obama campaign officials said then-candidate Obama put his investments in a federally qualified blind trust early in his 2008 race for president.