President Obama's re-election campaign and Mitt Romney are dueling over a Washington Post report that Romney been able to legally decline to disclose a large portion of his holdings due to an exception in federal ethics laws, raising questions about possible unknown conflicts of interest from his finances.
The Post reports that Romney did not disclose the underlying assets in 48 accounts from Bain Capital, the investment firm he founded before his political career took off. Romney's agreement with Bain when he left the company included holdings in Bain accounts, which his campaign says have been turned over to a trustee, like all of his investments, to prevent potential conflicts of interest.
Romney was not required to disclose these assets because they were protected by a legally binding confidentiality agreement, which is exempted from disclosure requirements by the Office of Government Ethics.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Post that Romney asked Bain to release information about his funds, but that request was denied.
The Post writes that this is not the first situation in which a candidate didn't disclose all of his underlying holdings, but that Romney "is the first to do so for such a large portion of his overall assets."
The lack of clarity in his financial disclosure forms has raised concerns surrounding how Romney's investments may affect his policies were he to take office. And the revelation brings one of the GOP frontrunner's biggest perceived flaws – his staggering wealth – into the spotlight again.
Obama's campaign slammed Romney for being a “corporate buyout specialist” and noted that Romney has refused to release more than two years of tax filings, in comparison to his father, George Romney, who released 12 years' worth.
“Mitt Romney has put his personal financial assets in a black box and hid the key, attempting to play by a different set of rules than any candidate in recent history,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement.
Saul responded: “President Obama will do anything to try and distract Americans from his failed record of chronic unemployment, lower incomes and higher gas prices. The [financial disclosure] completely and accurately describes Governor Romney’s assets as required by the law applicable to candidates for president. If [the Office of Government Ethics] had at any point considered any part of the filing insufficient, it would have made this clear."
Sarah Huisenga contributed