You can see a Democratic Party political ad on this development. Or several ads. It’ll fit right into the narrative the Democrats are starting to weave about likely 2012 Republican Presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney:
Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, whose wealth has become a central issue in the 2012 campaign, has taken advantage of an obscure exception in federal ethics laws to avoid disclosing the nature and extent of his holdings.
By offering a limited description of his assets, Romney has made it difficult to know precisely where his money is invested, whether it is offshore or in controversial companies, or whether those holdings could affect his policies or present any conflicts of interest.
In 48 accounts from Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded in Boston, Romney declined on his financial disclosure forms to identify the underlying assets, including his holdings in a company that moved U.S. jobs to China and a California firm once owned by Bain that filed for bankruptcy years ago and laid off more than 1,000 workers.
Those are known only because Bain publicly disclosed them in government filings and on the Internet. But most of the underlying assets — the specific investments of Bain funds— are not known because Romney is covered by a confidentiality agreement with the company.
Several of Romney’s assets — including a large family trust valued at roughly $100 million, nine overseas holdings and 12 partnership interests— were not named initially on his disclosure forms, emerging months later when he agreed to release his tax returns.
There is no indication that Romney is violating any rules, and his advisers note that his reports have been certified by the Office of Government Ethics, which reviews the disclosures required of presidential candidates.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the disclosure “completely and accurately describes Governor Romney’s assets as required by the law.”
What will likely happen with this:
And it’ll likely come up in any press conference or interviews with non-Fox News reporters that he does between now and election day. Expect it to come up in one of the Presidential debates in the fall as well.
UPDATE: The Democrats have already pounced on this early Christmas gift from Mr. Romney. The Daily Kos has this statement issued from the Dems:
“Mitt Romney has asked Americans to elect him President based on his experience as a corporate buyout specialist. Each week, new questions are raised about whether he took unusual steps to avoid paying his fair share in taxes. Today’s report suggests that Governor Romney is exploiting a loophole in order to shield his assets and investments from public review.
“Mitt Romney has put his personal financial assets in a black box and hid the key, attempting to play by a different set of rules than any candidate in recent history. In fact, Mitt Romney’s own father released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president. President Bush released his tax returns dating back to 1991. And President Obama released his returns dating back to 2000 when he ran for president.
“Governor Romney provided 23 years worth of tax returns to the McCain campaign so they could determine if he would make a suitable Vice President. He must meet that same standard now so that the American people may judge whether he would be a suitable President, and whether there are any conflicts of interest that could cloud his judgment.”
Basically, this issue will be kept alive and even if Romney uses the defense that he has complied with the law, it fits in neatly with the narrative the Democrats are now starting to repeat like a mantra.
Re-read my prediction on how this will play out with the Rs, Ds and indes. Just watch Fox News tonight and if it comes up it will match my prediction.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.