In my recent Vanity Fair article about Mitt Romney, I note that:
The assertion that [Romney] broke no laws is widely accepted. But it is worth asking if it is actually true. The answer, in fact, isn’t straightforward. Romney, like the superhero who whirls and backflips unscathed through a web of laser beams while everyone else gets zapped, is certainly a remarkable financial acrobat. But careful analysis of his financial and business affairs also reveals a man who, like some other Wall Street titans, seems comfortable striding into some fuzzy gray zones.
I give a few examples of these gray zones in the piece, both with respect to his own financial affairs and with respect to his relationship with other countries, but there were plenty more I could have used. Some are unquestionably examples of Romney stepping boldly and deep into legally fuzzy zones; others raise questions about whether — or the extent to which — he did step into these zones. Take a look, for example, at this Jesse Drucker story on Romney’s involvement in Marriott International Inc. and his role in its use of the now-notorious Son of Boss tax shelter. There is Lynnley Browning’s story on the six ‘Form 8886s’ on his tax return, which are used to flag to the IRS tax strategies that may be of concern (the Romneys were saying they flagged them in order to be ‘ultra-cautious,’ but because so little information has been revealed, it’s hard to check. There is the recapitalisation of KB Toys, where creditors alleged fraud and self-dealing by the participants.
In each case, Bain or Romney have asserted that they never broke the law. But each case makes the reader uneasy and (at least for me) creates a perception that Romney is willing to push the limits of what is acceptable. These grey zones — which in some cases can be the places where the real money is to be made, as I explain several times in Treasure Islands — represent the outer edges of what is acceptable under the law. Often, you will only find out what is legal, and what is not legal, once there has been a resolution in a court somewhere. (More often, there is no court case, and the gray zone remains gray.)
And, for good measure, a couple of other interesting reports that have come out since my Vanity Fair story.
Plenty more on the Sankaty company I mentioned from Stephen Brown of the Associated Press, here.
Another interesting report from David Corn of Mother Jones, asking the question of when exactly Romney did properly leave Bain Capital. Kind of another gray area, though not in the legal sense: (in particular, take a look at what the Obama campaign said, and then what FactCheck said in response.)
Five questions for Mitt Romney, by David Cay Johnston. Some broad questions where U.S. voters really need some answers.
All in all, it does look as if it’s appropriate to refer to him as Mitt Romney: International Man of Mystery.