Monday, 27 August 2012

Above The Belt, Under The Radar (Part 1) - Mitt Romney

posted 8/27/2012 by the Salt City Sinner

Today is part one in what will be an ongoing series regarding prominent officials and hypocrisy.

Now, this might seem like shooting fish in a barrel (it is), but in an election season Bedazzled ( TM, NSFW ) with loathsome talking points and "narratives," sometimes it is useful to remember a few very basic points about members of our political class that somehow get lost in the sparkles.

Today we will be discussing the disclosed - not still-sealed, mind you - finances of one Willard Mitt Romney.

Willard is a wealthy man ( seriously ).

His net worth is pegged at $230 million by anti-Romney, liberal muckraker Forbes magazine ( link here ), with $91 million in debt securities, $52 million from "Bain Alternative Investments," $29 million from "other alternative investments," and $23 million from mutual funds and ETFs (exchange traded funds).

Romney is also worth a cool $18 million in real estate, including almost half of that held in the family compound in Wolfeboro, NH, which Romney combined six different properties to create.

Cash and individual equities account for $16,600,00, and "transportation" - read: horses and cars - for $425,000. On Glenn Beck's personal advice, Romney also owns $260,000 in gold directly, just in case (Beck advice fictional, gold ownership actual).

It's worth noting that, as Forbes says:
Romney has the biggest chunk of his money invested in debt securities, estimated $10 million worth of structured notes from Goldman Sachs and BNP Paribas. [emphasis mine]
Gee, whatever could be wrong with that?

That's just an introduction to the world of Romney, Incorporated.

I'm not here today to bash on him for having a lot of money, even if an alarming chunk of that money is wrapped up in debt securities from Goldman Sachs, something that should make any informed person who has followed the US economy since 2008 more than a little nervous regarding his motives and probable economic policy.

Here's what I find interesting about Mittens' Millions.

According to some amazing, bang-up investigative journalism by John Cook (check it out  here ), Romney is involved in some very odd investments indeed. Follow the money with us, will you?

One investment that Romney has is in Sankaty High Yield Partners II LP, a group of debt vultures who focus on low-grade, toxic investments of the very type that kicked the global economy in the balls in 2008 (Sankaty, in fact, defaulted in 2008).

As Cook explains, having reviewed the filings, Sankaty also lost money is Las Vegas Sands and other gambling operations, as well as Core-Mark - a company that specializes in...cigarette distribution.

For a moment, let's give Romney the benefit of the doubt. Business is business, right? No need to involve Willard's personal religious beliefs (which include a religious ban on cigarette smoking*) with his finances, correct?

Well, apparently not so much. From the  Salt Lake Tribune :
"Our church doesn't publish how much people have given," Romney tells Parade magazine in an edition due out Sunday. "This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one's financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It is a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church."
However, as Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald points  out  :

While it's certainly understandable that Romney would prefer to keep his church giving private, this isn't really a convincing argument for hiding his [tax] returns. For one, he's not actually hiding anything as the cat's already out of the bag. We already know how much Romney gave to the Mormon church in 2010 and 2011, the years for which he has released his tax returns. Mormons are encouraged to tithe 10 percent of their income and, indeed, Romney gave about that - $4.1 million of the $40 million he earned in those two years... 
Secondly, the whole reason presidential candidates release tax returns is because former Republican presidential candidate George Romney started the tradition in the late 1960s by releasing 12 years of his returns. George Romney was also a Mormon and a leader in the church, but apparently had no problem with how much he had given the church (he was also Mitt Romney's father).

George Romney
So, to summarize:

Willard's Secrets: Tax returns, off-shore accounts, probable use of tax shelters in addition to the paper corporations he has already erected.

Willard's Not-So-Secrets: Massive investments in Goldman Sachs debt securities (and other debt instruments), gambling, and tobacco - plus he gives a lot to his church.

I'm as sick of the "What is Romney hiding?" trope as anyone on Planet Earth, but I have to say - with so much out in the open that is so questionable, Romney should probably just bite the bullet and release his returns.

After all, Obama has connections (to Goldman Sachs, for example) at LEAST as unsavory as Willard's. In fact, coming up tomorrow: Above The Belt, Under The Radar (Part 2) - Barack Obama

* - Interestingly, while the LDS Church has banned smoking since the days of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young - an incredibly influential and interesting figure in LDS history - made it not only acceptable, but religiously encouraged, to sell tobacco and alcohol to non-church members, while still ordering abstinence (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, p. 35 [encouraging Mormons to raise and sell tobacco[) - who says the Salt City Sinner doesn't know his LDS chapters and verses?!

In all seriousness this strikes me as a much more worthy topic of debate regarding Church policy than so-called  magic underwear  . If you acknowledge that a substance (tobacco) is physically and/or spiritually harmful, but encourage your community to essentially act as pushers in the non-believing community, well... that doesn't speak very highly of your church's opinion of non-believers, does it?

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