Most Americans have heard the saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” and one need not be an astrophysicist to catch the meaning. With all the smoke this past week regarding Willard Romney’s failure to release past tax returns, it is apparent there is a fire Romney is determined to extinguish to prevent the public from getting an accurate view of his finances. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asserted a Bain investor, and a number of others, confided in him that Romney avoided paying taxes for 10 years, it fueled the fire that Willard has secrets he is desperate to keep under wraps. Romney is no stranger to concealing damaging information that could doom his chance of becoming president, and if there were only one aspect of his record he kept hidden, it is possible the press and public would not be so curious, but it is a recurring theme that transparency is not within his purview.
Romney could end speculation immediately if he would release his returns going back to 1999 when he claimed he left Bain Capital, but coupled with his fraudulent SEC disclosures, they would verify he was still in charge long past his alleged separation date. There is plenty of speculation as to why he is afraid to release the returns, but without careful examination, it is all speculation. However, there are clues that Romney’s tax issues are damaging and one need look no further than John McCain and his decision to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate over Willard.
McCain claims assertively that Palin was the better candidate for vice president in 2008, and that Romney’s tax returns were not an issue. However, despite Palin’s lack of experience and apparent cluelessness on myriad issues, McCain still chose her over Romney. In McCain’s opposition file on Romney, the recurring appraisal was that his only concern was acquiring wealth despite dismantling and bankrupting businesses, and outsourcing Americans’ jobs. Steve Schmidt, McCain’s top campaign adviser in 2008, said tax returns were not a problem, but admitted that he did not examine them and left it to others to peruse Romney’s returns. Despite a comprehensive file on Romney detailing every aspect of his career, there was no mention of his 23 years’ worth of tax returns. Still, it begs the question; why did Willard give McCain 23 years of returns, but refuses to release more than two years during a presidential campaign?
Regardless if one supports or detests Willard Romney, it is impossible to come to any conclusion other than his tax returns are toxic. In particular, his 2009 return is very interesting because he most certainly recorded significant losses due to the market crash and subsequent recession. According to BusinessWeek’s Joshua Green, “It’s possible he suffered a large enough capital loss that, carried forward and coupled with his various offshore tax havens, he wound up paying no U.S. federal taxes at all in 2009. If true, this would be politically deadly for him.” Then there is the problem with Willard’s insistence he left Bain Capital in 1999.
If Romney releases his tax returns from 1999-2002, it would verify SEC documents showing he was CEO, attended board meetings, and drew a six-figure salary when he denies he was involved in Bain’s investment in Stericycle, the company that disposed of aborted fetuses. Releasing tax returns would reveal the extent of “his involvement at Bain during this period,” and condemn him as a criminal for lying to the Federal Election Commission stating he had no role in Bain after February 1999. In fact, the LA Times reported that “at least 23 funds and partnerships listed in Romney’s 2010 tax returns did not show up or were not listed in the same fashion on Romney’s most recent financial disclosure, including 11 based in low-tax foreign countries such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg.” A cursory examination would clear up whether or not Willard failed to disclose other investments and eliminate speculation that he broke the law by not disclosing all of his investments. If Romney lied on SEC filings, there is ample reason to believe he also failed to disclose a wealth of information regarding his investments in companies such as Sankaty Investors, of which Willard is the sole owner according to SEC filings. True to his reputation as extremely secretive, he failed to list Sankaty on several disclosures until 2010 when he “finally included it in his tax return.”
There is no dearth of questions releasing his tax returns going back to 1999 would clear up, but Romney is terrified of revealing information that will convict him as a liar and a fraud. There is no doubt he lied on SEC filings regarding his involvement in Bain Capital, and tax returns would be damaging if he either omitted offshore investments, or verified that he was still involved in Bain. Although he should release at least ten years’ worth of returns, there is a good reason he refuses to release even one more year that may reveal he paid no taxes in 2009, or worse yet, got a refund for the losses due to the 2008 market crash.
In an attempt to divert attention away from his own secrecy, Romney stooped to bringing up 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry’s wife, and his comparison that she did not release tax returns so he shouldn’t either. Interestingly, Romney’s top advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, assailed Romney’s gubernatorial opponent in 2002 for not releasing her husband’s tax returns implying they would show wrongdoing and said, “what’s she hiding?” If Romney’s campaign accused a political opponent’s husband of hiding something by not releasing his tax returns, then the obvious question is “what’s Romney hiding?” The fact that Harry Reid is sticking to his assertion portends that not only is Willard hiding something, but that there are people who know what terrifies him enough to gamble that it is better to be hounded than allow the public to see the damaging information that may sink his candidacy before he secures the nomination.
Willard Romney has earned the reputation as a pathological liar, and despite his claims he has done nothing illegal, there is obviously damaging information in his tax returns. There is even speculation he shortchanged his cult’s demand that members tithe 10% of their income. According to the Daily Caller, Mr. Mormon “under-tithed the church by paying 7% and 9.7% over a two year period” and it belies his claim that “I made a commitment to my church a long, long time ago that I would give 10 percent of my income to the church, and I’ve followed through on that commitment. So, if I had given less than 10 percent, then I think people would have to look at me and say, ‘Hey, what’s wrong with you, don’t you follow through on your promises?” Apparently not, and based on his penchant for lying, there is much more in the tax returns that will cause voters to say “what’s wrong with you Willard,” don’t you follow the law like every other American?
Romney is not about to release any more tax returns regardless the bad press, petitions, and calls by Republicans and Democrats to come clean. The consequences are too great, and he would rather ride out the storm and take a chance that voters will support a man who hides his wealth to avoid paying his fair share of taxes and lied about his involvement in Bain Capital after 1999 than reveal the truth. However, some are losing patience with Willard and every time he refuses to release his taxes, he appears sleazier than the day before, and as the base hears Republicans calling on him to release his returns, they will become more suspicious that he is indeed hiding something that will doom his candidacy. Romney is also not helping his cult’s reputation among evangelicals who are queasy about supporting a Mormon, and at some point he will drive real Christians to sit out the election before supporting a man who lies about his religion, Bain Capital, and his wealth hidden in offshore accounts. There is a wealth of information Willard is desperate to conceal, and unfortunately for him, his dirty little secrets will be exposed and at that point, Willard will rue the day he decided that his elitist attitude precluded him from coming clean to the American people.