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Ask Mitt About Amnesty -- His Own

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One has to wonder if Haley Barbour, the big poobah of the Republican Party, is dusting off his Rolodex looking up the private phone numbers of Rick Santorum or Mitch Daniels.

Former Governor Mitt Romney suddenly made himself available for interviews on five TV news programs on Friday, apparently hoping to puncture the ballooning stories about his own taxes and finances before the weekend.

Although he accomplished next-to-nothing -- except demonstrating that he knows where the news studios he has studiously avoided are located -- the interviewers were all focused on the question of when, exactly, Romney left Bain Capital as that speaks to his association, or not, with certain corporate actions that enriched Romney and his partners while causing employees to lose their jobs, and make taxpayers responsible for their pensions.

Important, to be sure, but Romney's "explanation" need only confuse people to be successful, as he tried hard to do five times on Friday.

But, so what? We already know that at a time when Mitt was indisputably running Bain Capital, he invested in a Chinese company whose business plan was to take American jobs to China. Bain invested in that plan. The more U.S. manufacturing outsourced to that company, the better for Mitt and his partners. That is the smoking-gun/mushroom cloud on the issue of Mitt profiting literally investing in outsourcing and profiting handsomely from it. [Aside: While Mitt is flailing about on outsourcing, trying to attack the president -- who a) did not outsource; and b) never made a dime on it -- the president ought to call Mitt's bluff by to inviting Mitt to join him, right now, in pressing Congress before it recesses to close loopholes for companies who outsource!].

But, for an enterprising national reporter, the next time he/she gets to ask Romney a question, there is a better question, better because it is black-and-white and unspinnable: Did Romney get amnesty from the IRS on taxes owed on his Swiss Bank Account? (For an explanation of "amnesty" for Swiss Bank Account holders, and links to other sources, see my previous article.)

There are three possible answers:

  1. "No" -- in which case the clamor to prove it would be deafening.
  2. "Yes" -- in which case that would be the end of the Romney candidacy.
  3. "I have paid all my taxes, as appropriate, and that is all I am going to say" -- is that not "yes"? The reporter just follows with, "Governor, that could be true even if you received amnesty. I ask again, did you receive amnesty?"

People like Romney helped make the word "amnesty' politically toxic in the immigration debate. Vice-President Biden has already half-jokingly linked "papers please" to Romney's unreported tax returns. Moreover, "amnesty" for a man of Romney's wealth would be immediately linked to the Wall Street bankers who were bailed out, an act that still gnaws in the gut of the body politic of all parties.

If Romney hid income in Switzerland from the IRS so he did not pay taxes, and did so only when he was provided amnesty, not only did the 99% pay taxes in his place, but he may have committed a crime. Whenever he tries to talk about deficits, look who has contributed to it -- estimates are that the Treasury loses $100 billion a year to these tax shelters. That is $1 trillion over the past decade. That would pay for a lot of health care, or schools, or half the infrastructure repair everyone agrees we need.

We do not know, yet, whether Romney did receive amnesty. What other reasons did Americans who do not live in Switzerland set up Swiss accounts other than to hide money from the IRS? Or, like he "retroactively retired," perhaps he was just "retroactively paying taxes" he was always going to pay anyhow, cross-his-heart-and-hope-to-die, he was.

What can Romney do? A "Checkers" speech? What will he refer to -- Ann's two cadillacs and her Olympic horse are not exactly "Pat's cloth coat." His "little dog," Seamus? I wouldn't go there if I were Mitt.

The question for Mitt's wealthy backers -- many of whom probably also received amnesty, and their need to reveal these accounts made them detest President Obama even more -- is whether they want this entire issue aired over-and-over-and-over again for the next few months, or whether they are better off letting it recede by getting Mitt to realize that now is the time to retire.

One Republican governor has already told Romney to reveal his tax returns. So has Haley Barbour. So has Bill Kristol.

One reporter posing the amnesty question will cause it all to unravel very quickly for Romney. Or, if he stays in the race, Democrats should punctuate their sentences with the word, "amnesty."

As hot as Tampa will be in August, Santorum may want to start dusting off his vests.