The vast fortune of presidential candidate Mitt Romney is putting him under withering fire just one day before the most important vote so far in the Republican primary calendar.
Discrepancies between Romney’s tax returns and the financial disclosure he filed with the Federal Elections Commission when he started his run for the White House last year are raising new questions about whether he has hidden huge sums from the public, claims rival Newt Gingrich.
On federal disclosure documents Romney said he was not aware of such accounts, but his own signed tax return filed with the IRS and released publicly shows that Romney was aware he had more than two dozen foreign accounts.
During his recent CNN debate in Jacksonville, Romney said he was not knowledgeable about the foreign accounts or why his money was deposited there, since he had given control over his investments to a “blind trust.”
“Governor Romney’s taxes are like an onion,” Gingrich’s communications director, Joe DeSantis, charged on Monday, 24 hours before the Florida primary. “The more layers you peel back, the stronger the aroma.
“The people of Florida – indeed, the people of the United States – deserve answers to the questions raised by his secret network of hidden foreign bank accounts and shady tax accounting procedures.”
Romney’s campaign has claimed the omissions were “trivial.” His spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, called it “a minor discrepancy” and said the former Massachusetts governor would be amending his FEC filing to include the information.
Among the new questions raised:
• Why does Romney need to squirrel money away in foreign banks, best known for their ability to hide income from the taxman?
• Why does he claim he provides “services” to his former company, Bain Capital, thus allowing him to pay reduced taxes, at the same time he says he retired from the company more than a decade ago?
• Is the barrage of vicious attack ads that he has launched against Gingrich, in effect, being funded by government bailout money given to his biggest donor, Goldman Sachs?
“Every time he takes a step toward transparency, new questions emerge,” DeSantis said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.
“Why does an American citizen even need a Swiss bank account? There are plenty of banks here in the U.S. He says he pays taxes on everything and that’s great. But why does he need to place this money overseas in the first place?
“We all know that foreign accounts are usually used to obscure something, so we have to ask, what is it he is trying to hide?
“Putting it simply, it looks like he is trying to game the system.”
Questions were first raised by the Los Angeles Times last week, which compared Romney’s tax returns to his filings with the Federal Elections Commission.
The paper discovered at least 23 overseas accounts on his tax return that were not included on his financial disclosure forms.
Among his assets were funds based in what the Times called “low-tax foreign countries such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg.”
Then The Wall Street Journal raised the question of whether Romney should be entitled to pay 15 percent tax on money he earned from “services” to Bain, when he had previously claimed he had retired from the company in 1999.
A Romney campaign official admitted to the Journal that the form was completed using “boilerplate language” and Romney had not actually provided any new services to Bain. The official said that under complex tax laws, “you can have it both ways,” but admitted that “from a consistency standpoint” the situation looked odd.
“In the complex accounting of Mr. Romney's income, that could land him with a bill for back taxes,” the Journal reported.
DeSantis told Newsmax, “If you just look at the failure to disclose foreign bank accounts in his FEC report, you have to wonder why. There seems no good reason why any lawyer worth his salt would think you don’t need to include these assets.”
Romney had already come under attack from the non-profit Sunlight Foundation which advocates for open government. Editorial Director Bill Allison said failing to tell everything defeats the purpose of disclosure reports.
DeSantis said if that omission was the only issue concerning Romney’s finances he could accept his word. However, he said, it was “part of a pattern,” with too many other issues raised, such as whether he is entitled to a lower rate for his work for Bain, and his acceptance of $367,000 in campaign donations from Goldman Sachs, which received billions in bailout money.
“You have this perverse situation where this company received taxpayer money and is now donating to Romney to fund his attack ads.
“This comes at the same time that he is finding clever ways to reduce his own taxes, which in turn raises real suspicions even in such a respected conservative newspaper as The Wall Street Journal,” said DeSantis, who called Goldman Sachs “the poster child for crony capitalism.
“The American people, and Republican voters in particular, know about the grotesqueries of Mitt Romney’s tax situation, his unwillingness to be completely transparent and his general attitude of gamesmanship when it comes to disclosing his sources of income,” added DeSantis.
“He treated the FEC in the same way he treats the taxpayer – looking for every loophole he can.”
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