Romney's tax-dodge dance

Romney's tax-dodge dance

August 18th, 2012 in Opinion Times

Is Mitt Romney refusing to reveal his income tax records because, as CEO of Bain Capital in 1999, he participated in purchasing a big share of Stericycle, a huge medical-waste disposal company that has come under attack by anti-abortion groups and charges by two states of wrongly disposing of aborted fetuses in landfills?

Romney's signature on Bain documents as its CEO and the company's sole investor among partners in the $75 million Stericycle deal has resulted in reports that he reaped millions from Bain's $55 million in profits on its share of the Stericycle purchase, which made Bain the largest stockholder in the company. Romney won't comment on the reports. And his campaign just keeps saying, without confirming documents, that Romney relinquished his role in running Bain months before the Stericycle purchase.

Yet Romney continues to draw millions of dollars in yearly income from Bain -- some through his Bain-related tax-sheltered accounts in the Cayman Islands -- and his name remained on the books as CEO, chairman and president of Bain and some affiliated companies in documents submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission into 2002.

Profits from abortions?

So has he reaped handsome profits from abortions? And did he make executive decisions to offshore jobs from companies that Bain controlled, as the Washington Post has reported, in the years that Romney now says he wasn't actually leading Bain?

Romney won't reveal the income tax documents that would concretely answer these questions.

Nor will he say how much in income and tax-avoidance deals he has put through his dozens of known accounts in the Caymans, Switzerland, Luxembourg -- all tax shelter havens -- and others in Germany, Ireland and Australia. And he won't reveal the documents that would answer those questions. No wonder Wall Street is helping bankroll his campaign: He's their kind of guy. Plus, he promises to undo banking reforms designed to prevent another Wall Street bubble and crash.

The public can't learn concrete answers to Romney's financial links, because Romney refuses -- as he did again Thursday -- to release copies of his income tax returns during and since his years as head of Bain Capital and related spin-off companies, including Bain Capital Partners VI, Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors and Brookside Capital Investors. Read more here.

These and other questions will continue to haunt Romney's veracity, character and political goals until he fully discloses his income tax records. American voters deserve to know what kind of person they will elect as president in November, and how honest or deceitful he has been in responding to questions about how he accumulated his fortune, widely estimated at a quarter of a billion dollars. Voters also deserve to know whether or not he has dodged taxes that he should have paid, and whether he fairly treated employees of companies that Bain purchased -- and, in some cases, raided assets, offshored jobs and bankrupted.

Among other questions raised by reputable reports due to Romney's refusal to reveal his income taxes are:

• Has Romney always tithed his promised 10 percent to the Mormon Church, as he claims, or has he shorted his church?

• Has Romney understated the value of his large investments in his IRA accounts and of his gifts to his children?

• Has Romney properly reported his federal and state taxable income or illegally or questionably evaded due taxes?

• Has Romney gone some or many years without paying any federal income taxes on his accumulated wealth and investments, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has claimed?

• Has Romney violated any federal laws or committed any felonies relating to financial disclosure forms that he has been required to provide to the Federal Election Commission?

These are just speculative questions, of course. But they they are serious to some precisely because Romney chooses not to disclose his tax records. He obviously would rather have critical skepticism taint his campaign, than reveal his tax records. That says a lot in and of itself: He's making the political gamble that stonewalling against such speculation is safer than revealing the facts. Umm...

Then he said Thursday that questions about this failure to disclose his income tax records prompted him to go back and check his records and see what percentage of federal income taxes he has paid. And guess what, he said: His review showed him that he had always paid at least 13 percent in taxes -- never mind that that figure is well below the 25-percent-and-higher range that many in the nation's top 2 percent of earners who are not multimillionaires pay.

Where's Romney's proof?

Regardless, where's the proof? Given Romney's known use of offshore tax havens and tax avoidance tactics, he cannot reasonably expect the nation to believe something that he is unwilling to prove by showing his income tax records.

His defiant refusal is unacceptable. It makes him the first presidential aspirant in decades to resist releasing his tax records. It conflicts directly with the standard that his father, George Romney, set for full disclosure 35 years ago in his bid for the presidency. And it suggests that Romney really is hiding something, or many somethings, that he doesn't want Americans to know. Why else wouldn't he reveal his records?

As his wife, Ann Romney, told NBC Thursday, he will not provide his tax records because that would simply provide "ammunition" for Democrats. That, of course, is essentially an admission that he has something to hide. It's all the more reason to demand disclosure of his tax records before the November election. Until he discloses his records, his word has no credibility.