Obama campaign goes after Romney’s personal finances

The Obama campaign went hard after Mitt Romney's personal finances in a conference call on Thursday, ripping the presumptive Republican nominee for saying he would only move his holdings into a federal blind trust if he’s elected president.

“The trust [Romney currently uses] is not blind, nor has he taken any steps to make the trust blind from the vantage point of the federal ethics rules,” Obama campaign general counsel Robert Bauer said. “It just raises a host of questions of why it is that he will not abide by the more rigorous standards and address the question of conflict of interest, since we know that he has far-flung investment interests offshore.”

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Last week, the Romney campaign revealed that the former Massachusetts governor is worth between $190 and $250 million. Many of those assets are held in blind trusts managed by the Romney family’s attorney. However, federal blind trusts, of the kind President Obama adopted early in the 2008 campaign cycle, are far stricter.

In the call, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said that by waiting until he’s potentially elected, Romney is keeping from voters conflicts of interest that could arise between Romney’s legislative agenda and his own holdings.

“Days before Mitt Romney changed his position and his rhetoric on China, according to The Wall Street Journal, he dumped 1.5 million in investments in China,” LaBolt said. “Prior to that, in his book he was highly critical of the president standing up for American workers and enforcing trade laws against China, calling it bad for our nation and our workers. He seems to have changed his position and certainly his rhetoric on that on the campaign trail, and shortly before he did that he dumped those investments, which raised serious questions.”

The Obama campaign also slammed Romney for failing to release his separation agreement with Bain Capital. According to the financial disclosure report filed last week, Romney “has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way” since Feb. 11, 1999.

However, Romney took in more than $2 million from Bain in 2011, according to an Associated Press analysis, claiming that income as “carried interest,” which is taxed at a lower rate than the wage-based income tax rate paid by most middle-class Americans.

“Why is he claiming preferential tax treatment and carried interest tax treatment for those interests?” Bauer asked. “Could it be that he’s still providing services in some sense, even though he says that he ceased providing services to Bain in 1999? Why is it that there are no major conflicts of interest issues, for them or for him, if these interests would pay out to him even as he is president of the United States?

"Why wouldn’t he, because these are great issues, go ahead now and establish a blind trust that meets rigorous federal standards?" he continued.

The Obama campaign has made Romney’s wealth and 15 percent tax rate campaign issues, and it has kept them at the forefront while the president drew contrasts by proposing his “Buffett Rule,” which would tax millionaires at the same rate as average workers.

On Thursday, Bauer hit Romney for not releasing more tax returns.

“He’s provided 23 years of tax returns privately when he wanted to be vice president, he’s provided one year of tax returns publicly when he wanted to be president, and there’s something wrong in that choice,” Bauer said.

“We have a presidential candidate who has sort of an ongoing investment activity, not shielded rigorously from view to a true blind trust arrangement, that is generating income — not only for him now, but would actually continue to generate from Bain income,” he continued. “I’ve never seen it before. It’s very hard to think of any distinct case like this or any case like this where a presidential candidate has worked with such a thin blind trust structure so transparently, not in compliance with federal standards.”

Romney campaign spokesperson Amanda Henneberg shot back in an email, calling the attack a "tired distraction."

“As has been reported for years, Governor and Mrs. Romney's assets are managed on a blind basis,” she said. “They do not control the investment of these assets, which are under the control and overall management of a trustee.”