Unseemly and Disgusting

The Sunday morning talk shows were filled with chatter about Mitt Romney’s offshore bank accounts after a major article in Vanity Fair detailing Romney’s investments, including a Bermuda entity called Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd. Romney’s use of tax shelters is not a shock. They are legal and Romney is very rich. What is surprising is the Romney campaign’s inability to formulate an answer.

In a statement, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul said “The Obama campaign’s latest unfounded character assault on Mitt Romney is unseemly and disgusting.” This is a non-response that doesn’t address the issue or resonate with voters.

In contrast, Obama surrogate and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley landed a strong blow on ABC’s This Week, stating “I’ve never known of a Swiss bank account to build an American bridge, a Swiss bank account to create American jobs, or Swiss bank accounts to rebuild the levies to protect the people of New Orleans.” It’s unclear whether this line of attack is “unseemly and disgusting” but it certainly is effective.

The Romney campaign needs to just accept that their candidate is really rich and engages in elaborate, albeit legal, tax avoidance strategies. They can acknowledge the investments, disclose more of his tax returns and just get it over with. The way to get reporters to stop asking questions isn’t to call those questions “unseemly and disgusting,” it’s just to answer them. It’s not a secret that Mitt Romney is rich or that he pays taxes at a much lower rate than most Americans. However, with their ham-handed response, the Romney campaign is making it a story too.

Ben Jacobs

Ben Jacobs is a journalist living in New York. He is a former reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and contributor to the Boston Globe editorial page. Follow him on Twitter @bencjacobs.