5 Things You Need to Know About Mitt Romney's Shady Investments Before Election Day
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What the Romneys have might best be called visually impaired trusts – like trusts with cataracts.
Here are five reasons why reporters who accept the Romney campaign's claim that the candidate is truly insulated from his investments are guilty of media malpractice.
1. Visually Impaired Trust
Last December, Matthew Mosk of ABC News reported that the Romneys' “blind” trusts did not meet the minimal standards of independence associated with a blind trust. The problem is that the Romneys' trusts are administered by Bradford Malt, Mitt's personal attorney and “long-time associate.” Mosk reports that, “In addition to serving as the trustee for Romney's charitable foundation, Malt's law firm has represented Romney's interests in legal disputes, and Malt served as the primary outside counsel to Romney's company, Bain Capital.”
That's not a terribly independent trustee. Robert Kelner, a Republican election lawyer in Washington, DC, told Mosk, "The Office of Government Ethics requires that a financial institution be appointed as the trustee and that the financial institution not be controlled by or have done business with the candidate... It would preclude you from hiring your favorite lawyer as the trustee."
Writing in Vanity Fair, Nicholas Shaxson noted that Malt is listed as a director and president of one of Romney's shadowy offshore investment vehicles:
There is a Bermuda-based entity called Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd., which has been described in securities filings as “a Bermuda corporation wholly owned by W. Mitt Romney.” It could be that Sankaty is an old vehicle with little importance, but Romney appears to have treated it rather carefully. He set it up in 1997, then transferred it to his wife’s newly created blind trust on January 1, 2003, the day before he was inaugurated as Massachusetts’s governor. The director and president of this entity is R. Bradford Malt, the trustee of the blind trust and Romney’s personal lawyer. Romney failed to list this entity on several financial disclosures...
2. Romney Campaign Says It's Not Blind Trust
Here is the campaign's response to Mosk's report:
In an email to ABC News, Romney's campaign acknowledged the arrangement does not live up to the strict standards for blind trusts established by the federal Office of Government Ethics. But the campaign was also quick to note that those rules do not apply to candidates for office -- they apply only to federal office holders.
"The blind trust does NOT meet the exacting 'federal blind trust' standard," a campaign official wrote in response to questions from ABC News. "We have never called it a federal blind trust. If Governor Romney is elected president, that will change."
The campaign insists that the trusts do meet the state of Massachusetts' standards for independence. The only problem is that Massachusetts doesn't have its own standards, according to Mosk.
We may live in an era of polarized information, but when one camp acknowledges that their opponent's claim is accurate, that should be definitive.
3. Romney Set Up Visually Impaired Trust to Dodge Conflict of Interest Charges
According to an August report in the Telegraph, when Romney was governor of Massachusetts he may have violated state ethics laws when his administration maintained a “lucrative” contract with a company in which he had a financial stake. According to Telegraph reporter Jon Swaine, “Massachusetts law requires that all state employees divest themselves of financial interests in private sector contracts with state agencies. At the time, failure to do so could have resulted in a $2,000... fine or a 2.5-year prison sentence.” He added that “the potential punishments are now stronger.”