A recent spate of news articles about Mitt Romney’s offshore accounts, including an Associated Press report about a Romney-owned corporation in Bermuda have thrust the issue of the candidate’s finances, wealth and taxes to the fore. And Democrats are eager to use it as a political weapon against Romney.
On the Sunday talk show circuit, Republicans fired away at President Obama over Friday’s disappointing jobs report, while Democrats pounded away at Romney’s Swiss bank account and offshore firm in Bermuda.
“This is a guy whose slogan is ‘Believe In America’ but it should be ‘Business In Bermuda,’” said Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “That’s what Mitt Romney’s all about.”
On ABC’s “This Week,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said, “I’ve never known of a Swiss bank account to build an American bridge, a Swiss bank account to create American jobs, or a Swiss bank accounts to rebuild the levies to protect the people of New Orleans. That’s not an economic strategy for moving our country forward.”
Prominent Democrats called on Romney to release more of his tax returns.
“I’d really like to see Mitt Romney release more than one year of tax records because there’s been disturbing reports recently that he’s got a … secretive Bermuda corporation that no one knows anything about,” DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Gibbs said Romney needs to release more tax returns in order to clear up questions over whether he’s “done anything illegally, whether he’s shielding his income from taxes in Bermuda or Switzerland.”
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said, “You either get a Swiss bank account to conceal what you’re doing or you believe the Swiss franc is stronger than the American dollar.”
The Obama campaign simultaneously released a video Sunday afternoon in which spokesman Ben LaBolt says, “It isn’t too much to ask that a candidate for president explain why he chose to invest in other countries that are known as tax havens rather than in the United States.”
The wave of attacks hit a nerve with the Romney campaign, which fired out a furious response calling the issue a “character assault.”
“The Obama campaign’s latest unfounded character assault on Mitt Romney is unseemly and disgusting. Mitt Romney had a successful career in the private sector, pays every dime of taxes he owes, has given generously to charitable organizations, and served numerous causes greater than himself,” said spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “Barack Obama has become what he once ran against — a typical politician willing to use false and dishonest attacks to save his job after failing to do his job. The American people expected more from this president, and he continues to let them down.”
Republicans surrogates on Sunday found it tricky to counter this line of attack, arguing generally that talk about Romney’s finances are a “distraction.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal talked around the issue several times before finally answering a question about whether voters should take Romney’s offshore holdings into account. “Look, I think voters will consider all the distractions thrown out by the Obama campaign,” he said on “This Week.” He then quickly pivoted to talking about the deficit.
For now, the Obama campaign shows no intention of letting up.
“If highlighting the fact that Mitt Romney had a Swiss bank account and put his money in offshore tax havens is ‘unseemly and disgusting,’ perhaps he shouldn’t have done it in the first place,” Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith told TPM in an email in response to Saul’s statement. “He can put this whole debate to bed by following decades of precedent and releasing additional years of tax returns to prove that he didn’t use these offshore accounts and corporations to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Until he does, Americans have to wonder just what he is hiding.”
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.