What’s with Romney’s Swiss bank account?

Probably the biggest surprise in Mitt Romney’s limited tax-return disclosure was the revelation about a Swiss bank account. Given the bigger picture — including Romney’s cash in the Cayman Islands — this new angle isn’t helping the Republican’s campaign.

According to the former governor’s aides, Romney had $3 million in his Swiss account, held at UBS. Brad Malt, who helps oversee Romney’s investments, said told reporters yesterday, “It was a bank account, nothing more and nothing less.”

Not surprisingly, there are additional questions about why, exactly, Romney had $3 million stashed in Switzerland.

Martin Sullivan, contributing editor of Tax Analysts, a nonpartisan research organization, said he was surprised Romney had a Swiss bank account since such accounts were sometimes used to hide assets. “Why would somebody who knows he’s going to be so visible screw around with a Swiss account?”

That seems like a reasonable question. In fact, Democrats and their allies intend to keep asking it. Here’s a video the DNC unveiled over night:

It followed on the heels of this video from Americans United for Change:

“We know why Mitt Romney closed his Swiss bank account,” the narrator says in the video. “The question is, why did Mitt Romney open a Swiss bank account in the first place.”

Brian Beutler added some additional context, reporting, “Tax experts have noted to TPM in recent days that U.S. law changed shortly before then, to make it harder for U.S. persons to avail themselves of tax havens. Shortly thereafter the IRS gave people secreting their money abroad a time window for compliance. Taking camp Romney at its word, that wasn’t really their concern. Even if the account existed for purposes of diversification that could be politically embarrassing in and of itself, constituting a bet against U.S. currency. But to fully answer the question, we’d need to know if that bank account is declared in the years before the law changed.”

The release of Romney’s 2010 returns were intended to end questions about the Republican’s finances, but it’s actually helped do the opposite.