Last week, Vanity Fair published an alarming report detailing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s offshore accounts and shady investment history. The findings complicate Romney’s already questionable financial history. From the Republican presidential primary onwards, the former Massachusetts governor has found himself under considerable fire for a variety of alleged financial malfeasances and ambiguities, including his surprising tax returns – submitted when pressured to by other Republican presidential hopefuls and Democrats alike – and morally reprehensible dealings at investment firm and Bain & Company offshoot Bain Capital, which Romney co-founded in 1984.
But Romney’s offshore accounts are both more politically relevant than his other pecuniary concerns and potentially more damaging. Romney’s offshore accounts are located in at least three distinct locales: the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, and Bermuda, all of which are historical hotspots of international financial intrigue and dirty money. The locations – particularly the Cayman Islands – are regarded as tax havens: there is scarce regulation, low local taxation, and virtually no cooperation in the global fight against money laundering. That Mitt Romney neglected to disclose the offshore accounts in his January tax returns – and has since declined to discuss them when directly questioned – merely compounds the drama.
And that is of course secondary to the most commonsense questions of them all: why would a self-described patriotic citizen who claims to have helped the American worker stash millions in non-American accounts? And if there was no wrongdoing involved, why not disclose them the first time?
Justice, morality, and historical precedent demand that Romney clearly and honestly account, for lack of a better word, for the offshore accounts. Romney’s father, former Michigan Governor George Romney, made history and set the precedent for subsequent presidential elections by being the first to release his own tax returns – 12 years’ worth – during his own run at the White House, citing the need for financial transparency. Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich astutely observed: “I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account.”
Romney’s sizeable fortune alone suggests the need for scrutiny. One estimate of Romney’s wealth is $255 million; although, in light of the revelation of unverifiable amounts in international holdings, that estimate might be considerably lower than his true net worth. If his wealth was amassed legally and ethically, then Romney has nothing to hide and nothing to fear. However, if there are some dirty secrets stashed away along with his untold millions, as a potential president Romney must atone for them. As of now, the associated remarks by his campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, are insufficient at best and mendacious at worst.
Many signs point to Romney hiding something devastating. If that is so, the American people deserve to know the truth.