Mitt Romney’s wealth is estimated at between $190 million to $250 million, but he claims he’s not accountable for how he invests it. That’s because in 2003 when he became governor of Massachusetts, he put his money into a blind trust. If anyone accuses him of unsavory investments, he responds that he had nothing to do with making that investment.
But ABC is reporting that his trust might not be as blind as the candidate says it is. By law, federal office-holders must either declare all investments and financial holdings or put them into a blind trust so that they are unaware of their investments. The problem with Romney’s trust, however, is that it’s run by his longtime associate Bradford Malt.
Malt and Romney go way back. Malt is not only Romney’s personal lawyer, he also serves as a trustee for Romney’s charitable foundation. Malt also served as outside counsel to Bain Capital.
The best evidence that Malt doesn’t operate entirely independently is a $1 million investment he made on behalf of Romney in Solamere Founders Fund, which is managed by Mitt’s oldest son Tagg Romney. As ABC reports:
Cleta Mitchell, a Washington, D.C. election lawyer who has done legal work for Rick Santorum’s campaign, said it would be hard to explain how Romney’s independent investment fund would orchestrate a $1 million investment with his son’s firm without violating the terms of a standard blind trust — terms that typically prohibit communication with family members.
The Romney campaign admitted this much to ABC, but defending the candidate by saying that the rules only apply to office-holders, not candidates. “The blind trust does NOT meet the exacting ‘federal blind trust’ standard,” the campaign told ABC, “We have never called it a federal blind trust. If Governor Romney is elected president, that will change.”
This admission puts Mitt Romney in a bind. In order to prove he is not breaking any actual rules, he admitted that the ‘blindness’ of the trust is less blind than they originally led people to believe. So what’s to save them from attacks that Romney is indeed accountable for investments that don’t sit well with voters? For example, Romney previously denied any knowledge of past investments that could reflect poorly on the candidate if he knew about them, including offshore holdings, investments in a company that does embryonic stem-cell research, and in a firm that does business with Iran.
Famous for having taken both sides of an issue, Romney actually criticized blind trusts himself during his 1994 campaign against Sen. Ted Kennedy: “The blind trust is an age-old ruse.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.