The GOP candidate's off-shore accounts will be used to tar him during the campaign, but it could have been a lot worse.
Mitt Romney had a Swiss bank account. You're welcome, Democratic National Committee.
The Republican presidential contender, who released his tax forms Tuesday morning under pressure from his fellow candidates and the media, avoided some of the embarrassing pitfalls that can come with opening one's financial portfolio for public inspection. But in doing so, Romney handed Democratic opposition researchers a trove of new data that will surely show up in attack ads this fall, if he's lucky enough to be the GOP nominee.
Romney's tax forms show he made $21.7 million in 2010 and paid $3 million in federal taxes, a rate of just under 14 percent. The majority of Romney's income came from investments -- $12.6 million in capital gains, $3.3 million in interest and $4.9 million in regular dividends. The 2011 estimated forms show Romney made a total of $20.9 million last year, including $4.1 million in taxable interest, $3.1 million in dividends and $10.7 million in capital gains. Romney will pay about $3.4 million in taxes this year.
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Those details, and previous public disclosure forms he has filed during his career in politics, hint at the vast investment portfolio Romney has under his control, holdings that his political rivals will use to underscore charges that Romney is out of touch with average Americans.
And the way Romney keeps his money will help paint that picture. Romney's tax forms show he had a bank account in Switzerland, which he closed in 2010, and accounts in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. All three have reputations as offshore havens where the extremely wealthy keep their cash, sometimes to avoid paying taxes (Romney actually did pay taxes on those accounts, but that minor detail may be left out of any attack ads).
Still, it could have been worse. Romney donated nearly $3 million to charitable causes in 2010 and more than $4 million in 2011, including at least $4.1 million to the Mormon Church. That's better than some politicians, whose tax forms show they didn't bother to give money to those less fortunate than themselves (Think Vice President Joe Biden, who gave an average of just $369 a year to charity, according to 10 years of tax returns the Obama campaign made public in September 2008).
"The Romneys take to heart 'to whom much is given, of him shall much be required,'" the campaign writes in releasing the returns. Good thing, too, because to whom votes are given, stinginess is embarrassing.
The Romney campaign hopes the documents bookend what has been the candidate's worst few weeks of the past year. Romney is more comfortable when he's on the attack; he put Gingrich's time as an advisor to Freddie Mac under the microscope at last night's debate, and he's taken a notably harsher tone with Gingrich on the stump.
But the returns won't end the problem. In fact, they're more likely to exacerbate the biggest challenge facing Romney's campaign, his seeming inability to relate to the economic conditions of Americans today. Not a lot of unemployed Americans, after all, have bank accounts in Zurich.
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