There is no doubt that Democrats are reveling in the fact that it has been the Republican Party, and not the Obama campaign, that has helped start the process of painting Mitt Romney as a tax-payment ducking, one percent elitist.
But on Friday afternoon, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian took the meme to a new place, tying Romney, Bain Capital and drug smugglers together in one corrupt little bow.
"This is a guy who continues to tell us he got where he was because of his hard work and good luck. It wasn't his hard work and good luck. It was his good luck to be born to a daddy who worked hard," Harpootlian said in an appearance on MSNBC's "Politics Nation."
"And it's becoming clear that he's richie rich. I mean he's got money in the Caymans. What does that mean? The only people I ever hear about with money in the Caymans are doing something illegal. They are smuggling drugs or are sheltering money they ought to be paying taxes on."
Where to start? For one, while the Cayman Islands have been implicated in drug dealing-related money laundering (check out this 1988 congressional hearing featuring a young-looking John Kerry), it is not exactly ground zero for narcotics. Even if it were, it seems to be a stretch to discuss it in the same breath as a conversation about tax shelters. Second, Bain Capital is hardly the only company to use the Cayman Islands to avoid higher tax rates. And even though it did do that, when Romney took out his earnings from those funds, he paid them at the 15 percent rate that he would have had they been U.S.-based. Finally, there is nothing illegal about a company using the Cayman Islands as a tax shelter. It is called a "loophole" for a reason -- because it remains permissible under law.
Harpootlian is a throwback, the type of politician who pushes the envelop in subtle, clever manners. And certainly he, like other Democrats, sense that the moment is ripe to frame Romney in a way that could affect not just the primary, but the general election as well.
"[N]ow the average South Carolinian makes $30,000 a year," he concluded. "Mitt Romney said he made an inconsequential amount giving speeches: $400,000. That's not resonating with those folks."
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