Obama campaign: Romney ‘put his finances in a black box and hid the key’

The Obama campaign went after Mitt Romney over his personal wealth on Thursday, accusing the former Massachusetts governor of taking advantage of loopholes and tax shelters to keep his assets hidden from public view.

“Mitt Romney has put his personal financial assets in a black box and hid the key attempting to play by a different set of rules than any candidate in recent history,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement. “In fact, Mitt Romney’s own father released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president. President Bush released his tax returns dating back to 1991. And President Obama released his returns dating back to 2000 when he ran for president.”

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The statement links to an April 5 article in The Washington Post titled, “Romney using ethics exception to limit disclosure of Bain holdings,” which alleges that Romney has “taken advantage of an obscure exception in federal ethics laws to avoid disclosing the nature and extent of his holdings.”

The report notes that Romney has complied with all Office of Government Ethics reporting requirements.

“President Obama will do anything to try and distract Americans from his failed record of chronic unemployment, lower incomes and higher gas prices,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email to The Hill. “The Personal Financial Disclosure completely and accurately describes Governor Romney’s assets as required by the law applicable to candidates for president. If OGE had at any point considered any part of the filing insufficient, it would have made this clear."

Romney’s personal wealth has been an issue in the primary season, and the Messina statement is an indication that it will continue to be an issue in the general election. 

“Mitt Romney has asked Americans to elect him President based on his experience as a corporate buyout specialist,” Messina's statement continued. “Each week, new questions are raised about whether he took unusual steps to avoid paying his fair share in taxes. Today’s report suggests that Governor Romney is exploiting a loophole in order to shield his assets and investments from public review.”

Democrats, as well as some of Romney’s GOP rivals, have also pounced on some of Romney's missteps, occasionally taken out of context, to drive this point home. Romney at one point said he liked “being able to fire people,” although he meant it in a free-market sense. At another point he said that some of his good friends are “NASCAR team owners.”

“Governor Romney provided 23 years worth of tax returns to the McCain campaign so they could determine if he would make a suitable Vice President,” the Obama campaign's statement continued. “He must meet that same standard now so that the American people may judge whether he would be a suitable President, and whether there are any conflicts of interest that could cloud his judgment.”