Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's finances are under renewed scrutiny thanks to a new report detailing how and where he accumulated his up to $250 million fortune as well as shining a light on where the money is stashed.
A newly-released Vanity Fair article builds on Romney's tax releases, which were made available earlier this year thanks to pressure from his GOP primary rivals. As previously noted over the course of the campaign, Romney wildly profited from his time as CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital and investment firm, and still pulls in money from Bain thanks to his retirement package.
In addition to paying a lower tax rate than most Americans—about 15 percent because most of his income is from investment rather than wages—he also has held offshore accounts in tax havens such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.
"Vanity Fair's raising important questions about Romney's offshore accounts in foreign tax havens, including his mysterious corporation in Bermuda, his funds in the Cayman Islands, and the Swiss bank account he opened," said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "The question is, why? Was he avoiding paying his fair share of U.S. taxes? Was he hedging against the dollar?"
LaBolt called on Romney to release tax returns beyond 2010 and the estimates for 2011 that he has so far. When his father George Romney ran for president he released 12 years worth of returns, beginning the tradition—but not requirement—that presidential candidates offer up the documents for public scrutiny.
"This raises serious questions. If he has nothing to hide, why doesn't he just release his tax returns?" LaBolt asked. "This raises many questions about Romney's finances, but it confirms something we already knew – Mitt Romney's economic philosophy has always put maximizing his profits above anything else even if it means refusing to bet on America and its workers."
The Romney campaign has continually pushed back on Obama campaign claims and news reports that represent Romney as an outsourcer of American jobs for profit. But at the same time, Romney has repeatedly said he "will not apologize" for his success. The campaign also asserts that Romney is in full compliance with U.S. tax code.
"President Obama's attacks on Mitt Romney have been proven false time and again. As job growth slows, manufacturing activity stalls, and our economy continues to sputter, President Obama knows he can't make a legitimate argument for another term in office, so instead he is trying to tear down his opponent," said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg in a release. "This is just the latest example of President Obama and his political machine saying or doing anything to distract from his abysmal record over the last four years."
Romney caught flak in the winter for declining to release his income tax returns, contributing to his primary loss in South Carolina to Newt Gingrich. Romney was eventually forced him to turn over documents for 2010 and estimates for 2011.
Both campaigns are likely wary of making class warfare arguments, especially considering both candidates are multi-millionaires. But the Obama camp, like Romney's old GOP foes, sees an opening in portraying Romney as a corporate raider who is out of touch with middle- and lower-income Americans currently struggling in the down economy.
And while presidential candidates are generally more well-off than most—Democrats John Kerry and Hillary Clinton or Republicans John McCain and George W. Bush serve as examples—the Vanity Fair story writes that Gingrich summed up Romney's problem aptly earlier this year when he said, "I don't know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account."
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.