A former Obama administration official and campaign surrogate hammered Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on his wealth and taxes on Sunday, accusing him of using sophisticated accounting practices to lessen his tax burden.
“I think what Americans will find is that he pushed the envelope to the edge. He did stuff that simply ordinary Americans won't be able to relate to,” said Steven Rattner, Obama's former chief adviser on the auto industry, on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS.
Rattner added that, while he’s familiar with many of the practices Romney used to lessen his tax burden, he doesn’t know “anyone who did everything that he did,” adding that some of the “tricks” Romney used were ones that even Rattner’s friends in private equity didn’t know existed.
"I think it's going to make Americans recoil, and that's why I think he's not releasing those returns," he said.
Steve Schmidt, former campaign adviser for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, seemed to back up Rattner’s assertion. Though he said that there was “nothing that was disqualifying” found by the vetting process when Romney was being considered as a potential running mate for McCain in 2008, he did admit that Romney’s tax returns “do not look anything like the average American's.”
Rattner, the former car czar and co-founder of private equity firm the Quadrangle Group, defended private equity as a legitimate business, but asserted the Obama campaign’s line against Romney’s strongest credential: That it has nothing to do with creating jobs.
“Private equity, by and large, is a perfectly legitimate business exercise. What it is not is a practice of creating jobs. Where I part company with Governor Romney is where he starts to claim credit for creating all these jobs. That's not what private equity does. Private equity makes money. It makes profits in a very—in a legal and in a usually responsible way. But it's not a job-creation machine. It doesn't qualify you to be the job-creator-in-chief,” he said.
Rattner also said Romney had been “politically stupid” in leaving the circumstances surrounding his exit from Bain Capital so murky, but explained that it likely had to do with the company’s lack of a concrete transition strategy and that Romney probably didn’t know how long he’d be gone.