Offshore Mitt

With the AP following Vanity Fair in going after Mitt Romney’s tangled web of offshore investment vehicles, and Ted Strickland picking up on it on behalf of the Obama campaign, it looks as if Romney’s taste in investment vehicles will join Bain’s record of job destruction in this year’s campaign arsenal.

Josh Marshall argues that the Bain attack matters more to the voters than it does to the pundits. And I bet the same is true of the investment stuff. The average Ohio voter not only doesn’t have a Swiss bank account or a Cayman Islands investment vehicle, he doesn’t know anyone who does.

And of course this gets back to the question about Romney’s taxes, and why he decided to release only one year’s worth of returns. Without actually doing anything you can go to jail for, it’s more than likely that Romney pushed the envelope, hard, when it came to finding ways to pay less than his share of income taxes. (How else do you wind up with $20 million in an IRA, given the IRA contribution limits?)

As Greg Sargent points out, right now the Romney camp hasn’t come up with a plausible counter to any of this. Romney’s response to all questions is, basically, “Trust me.” But a reasonable response, given Romney’s rather distant relationship with truth-telling, is “Trust, but verify. Let’s see the returns.” The very fact of concealment strongly suggests that there’s something to conceal: for example, we still don’t know whether Romney took advantage of the amnesty for those who illegally concealed foreign bank accounts from the IRS. (Of course lots of us made the same inference about Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs, and got it massively wrong. But there’s no evidence that Romney is as crazy as Saddam Hussein.)

All of this plays up both Romney’s remoteness from the problems of struggling Americans and his basic slipperiness. Expect to hear more of it. And expect it to matter in November.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.