A treasure trove of leaked documents about Mitt Romney's finances may not contain earth-shattering revelations, but could at least make life awkward for the presumptive Republican nominee for president.
The documents were obtained and posted online by Gawker at a time of unusually high interest in Romney's finances. Though they are not nearly as revealing as the years of tax returns he refuses to release might be, they still have enough information and detail to make Romney uncomfortable. They show he has money indirectly invested in companies on which the Mormon church might frown and also highlight the lengths to which his complicated investments are shielded from taxes.
For example, Romney is invested in Sankaty High Yield Partners II LP, a debt fund affiliated with the private-equity firm Bain Capital, which Romney co-founded. Sankaty has loaned money to a variety of questionable companies, including the now-embattled Las Vegas Sands Corp., according to documents obtained by Gawker.
Las Vegas Sands, which is owned by famed Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, is currently facing multiple Justice Department inquiries. The first focuses on possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a U.S. anti-bribery law, related to the company’s casinos in Macau, China. The second is probing allegations that Las Vegas Sands failed to report millions of dollars of possibly laundered money transferred to its casinos by two big-time gamblers.
Romney’s link to the Adelson-owned corporation is also notable because Adelson has become one of the primary bankrollers of the Republican party in recent years. The man, who some refer to as the Republican George Soros, has spent $41.1 million so far to oust President Obama and other Democrats, according to the New Yorker, and he’s promised to spend as much as a hundred million dollars to achieve his goal.
But Romney’s connection to Sankaty, the fund that loaned money to Las Vegas Sands, isn’t exactly direct. In 2011, Romney’s IRA held a stake worth between $250,000 and $500,000 in the company, and the Ann Romney Blind Trust held a stake worth zero, according to Gawker. In 2006, the Ann Romney trust held a stake worth more than $100,000 in the company, and Romney’s IRA stake was worth somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million.
Sankaty’s $3 million loan to Las Vegas Sands was made in 2009, according to Gawker. Though the Gawker report brings the connection to light, it’s worth noting that much of the information about Romney’s relationship with Sankaty was already publicly available through filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Some in the financial media quickly dismissed the importance of all of the documents Gawker released, citing the public availability of much of the information they contained and the lack of any unusually damning information. "It appears that folks looking for a bombshell are going to be disappointed," wrote Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider.
Still, the document dump is likely an unwelcome development for Romney, whose investments, taxes and bank accounts have been the subject of intense scrutiny on the campaign trail. Romney has been accused of holding some of his millions in offshore tax havens and he was forced to defend his tax payments in recent weeks, saying he never paid a rate lower than 13 percent over the past decade. The documents released on Thursday show Romney's involvement in numerous offshore investment vehicles that help shield his income from taxes.
And the document release also shines a light on Romney's indirect investments, through Sankaty, in companies that may not exactly jibe with his squeaky clean Mormon image. In addition to Las Vegas Sands, the fund also lent money to American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer, as well as other gambling-related businesses and a cigarette company.
The Mormon church opposes gambling, including lotteries, and encourages others to join the church in “opposing the legalization and government sponsorship of any form of gambling,” according to its website. The church also offers programs to help its members quit smoking.
While Romney’s money is linked to businesses that run counter to the Mormon church’s values, he has also donated substantial cash to the church itself. In 2010 and 2011, Romney and his wife Ann donated $4 million, about 10 percent of their more than $40 million in income.
Earlier on HuffPost:
SEC Filings List Romney As 'Chief Executive Officer'
According to the <em><a href="http://www.boston.com/news/politics/articles/2012/07/12/government_documents_indicate_mitt_romney_continued_at_bain_after_date_when_he_says_he_left/" target="_hplink"><em>Boston Globe</em></a></em>, Securites and Exchange Commission documents filed by Bain Capital after February 1999 list Romney as the private equity firm's "stole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president."
The <em><a href="http://www.boston.com/news/politics/articles/2012/07/12/government_documents_indicate_mitt_romney_continued_at_bain_after_date_when_he_says_he_left/" target="_hplink">Globe</a></em> also found financial disclosure forms filed by Romney that indicate he still owned 100 percent of Bain in 2002, and earned at least $100,000 as an "executive" for the firm in 2001 and 2002.
As <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/mitt-romney-bain-departure_n_1669006.html?utm_hp_ref=politics" target="_hplink">The Huffington Post</a> reported, sworn testimony given by Romney in 2002 undermined his claims that he left Bain in 1999. In that testimony, given as part of a hearing to determine if he had sufficient Massachusetts residency to run for governor, Romney said that he "remained on the board" of the LifeLike Co., which Bain held a stake in at the time. LifeLike's 2000 <a href="http://www.sos.state.co.us/biz/ViewImage.do?fileId=20001165127&masterFileId=19961077091" target="_hplink">corporate filing</a>, filed with the state of Colorado, lists Romney as a director.
More SEC Filings
HuffPost's Jason Cherkis and Ryan Grim identified at least <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/13/mitt-romney-bain-sec_n_1671819.html" target="_hplink">six documents</a> filed by Bain Capital with the SEC from 1999 to 2001 that were signed by Mitt Romney. Most of the documents refer to Romney as the "reporting person."
'Managing Member' In 2002
HuffPost <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/15/mitt-romney-bain-capital_n_1674209.html?utm_hp_ref=politics" target="_hplink">reported</a> on a 2002 corporate document filed with the state of Massachusetts that shows Romney listed as one of two managing members of Bain Capital Investors, an entity of the private equity firm.
Signed Documents After 1999
Romney signed an SEC filing in November 1999 pursuant to Bain's partial acquisition of medical-waste firm Stericycle, <em><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mitt-romney-bain-financial-disclosure" target="_hplink">Mother Jones</a></em> reported. The filing noted that he was the "sole shareholder, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President" of the Bain entities involved in the $75 million deal.
2001 & 2002 SEC Filings
<a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2012/07/no_romney_didnt_leave_bain_in_1999.php" target="_hplink">Talking Points Memo</a> uncovered two SEC filings from July 2000 and February 2001. In both, Romney lists his "principal occupation" as "Managing Director of Bain Capital, Inc."
1999 News Reports
As Slate's <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2012/07/13/did_the_romney_campaign_create_the_swift_yachting_story_.html" target="_hplink">Dave Weigel</a> pointed out, Romney's campaign has cited news reports from 1999 that clearly state that Romney left Bain in 1999. However, those same news reports state that Romney would still be involved with the company. "Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions," read one such report from the <em>Boston Herald</em>
Former Partner Speaks Out
A former Bain Capital partner, Ed Conard, said during an appearance on MSNBC's "<a href="http://upwithchrishayes.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/15/12751962-former-bain-capital-partner-says-romney-was-legally-ceo-of-bain-capital-until-2002" target="_hplink">Up W/Chris Hayes</a>" that Romney was "legally" the CEO and sole owner of Bain Capital until 2002, as an ownership battle dragged on after Romney left to take over the Salt Lake City Olympics. "We had a very complicated set of negotiations that took us about two years for us to unwind. During that time a management committee ran the firm, and we could hardly get Mitt to come back to negotiate the terms of his departure because he was working so hard on the Olympics," Conard said.
Relationships With Problematic Companies
HuffPost's Sam Stein <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/16/mitt-romney-bain-capital_n_1677133.html" target="_hplink">reported</a> that SEC filings link Romney to politically problematic companies after his alleged 1999 departure from Bain: <blockquote>A Huffington Post review of SEC files unearthed six separate occasions in which Romney was listed as a member of "the Management Committee" of both Bain Capital Investment Partners and BCIP Trust, "deemed to share voting and dispositive power with respect to" shares held of DDi. In one of those filings, Romney is listed as president and managing director of Bain Capital, Inc. The dates of those filings range from April 14, 2000 to May 10, 2001 -- all after Romney had left for Salt Lake City. In one March 2001 filing, Romney signed the document as the "reporting person."</blockquote>
According at a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/16/mitt-romney-bain_n_1677259.html" target="_hplink">document</a> filed with the California Secretary of State's office in July 1999, Romney was listed as a "general partner" at Bain Capital Partners. Romney's signature appears on the document. Romney remained on record as a general partner until California was notified of his resignation in June 2003.