When Shaun Boyd, a reporter with the CBS affiliate station KCNC in Denver, Colorado, began her report yesterday on her sit-down with Mitt Romney, she told her audience: “The one stipulation to the interview was that I not ask him about abortion and Todd Akin.”
Romney’s campaign aides denied they’d imposed such limitations, including fielding queries about the Aug. 19 assertion by Akin, a Missouri Republican running for Senate, that “legitimate rape” doesn’t often lead to pregnancies.
Still, Boyd’s assertion joined a growing list of political distractions that have buffeted Romney’s campaign as it heads to Tampa next week for the Republican Party National Convention and his formal nomination to run for president. The website Gawker yesterday posted hundreds of pages of investment and tax documents from Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, the private equity company Romney helped establish that the Democrats have targeted in attack ads.
“Each day they aren’t talking about the economy is a bad day for Romney,” said Matthew Dowd, a former aide to President George W. Bush who is now a Bloomberg News analyst, in an e- mail. “In a very tight election and little time left, each day lost on your own message is a win for the other side.”
Republicans designed their convention, which starts Aug. 27, to be a made-for-television display of Romney’s economic credentials and a party rallying around his candidacy.
Romney, who spent the first two days of this week joining other party leaders in trying to pressure Akin, who has apologized for his remarks, to drop his Senate bid, sought yesterday to return to the issues of jobs and the economy. In Hobbs, New Mexico, he delivered a speech on energy policy and unveiled proposals he said would create 3 million new jobs.
Romney and his advisers said they are confident the convention will spotlight their central economic themes and build new enthusiasm for their campaign. “I feel pretty good that we’ll be in Tampa and will have a great convention,” Romney said in an interview on Fox Business News.
In a Wall Street Journal opinion column released yesterday, Romney uses the start to school season to promote his Bain credentials, particularly his role in helping Staples Inc. (SPLS:US) expand. “The lessons from that time would help me as president to fix our economy, create jobs and get things done in Washington,” he wrote.
Yet as Romney tried to reset the focus of his campaign, aides at President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago were pouring over the 950 pages of Bain documents, searching for an opportunity to renew calls for the candidate to release additional tax returns or attack his Bain record. Romney, who’s said he paid a tax rate of at least 13 percent over the past decade, has refused to release more than two years of filings.
“One thing that really jumps out is that a fundamental business objective set out in these documents is to enable investors to avoid U.S. income taxes,” said deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter. “It’s becoming more and more clear that Mr. Romney engaged in massive overseas tax avoidance.”
The document release comes after Obama and his allies have aired thousands negative ads focusing on Romney’s tenure at Bain and raising questions about his personal finances, including offshore bank accounts and his refusal to disclose additional returns. Romney has estimated his wealth to be as much as $250 million in public disclosure reports.
The newly released records show that Romney put money in a web of funds run by his former firm that used investing and tax strategies beyond the reach of ordinary savers. One tactic employed by Bain and other firms to achieve the lower tax rate for some compensation is known as management-fee conversions or fee waivers.
Bain Capital Fund VII LP disclosed in a 2009 report that the general partner in the fund had in the past waived management fees and converted those fees into an interest in the fund called a “priority profit share.” That had the effect of turning fees that would be taxed at ordinary income rates, as high as 35 percent, into capital gains, taxed at a rate of 15 percent.
Andrea Saul, Romney’s campaign spokeswoman, referred questions about the record to Bain.
Alex Stanton, a Bain spokesman, released a statement that said: “The unauthorized disclosure of a number of confidential fund financial statements is unfortunate. Our fund financials are routinely prepared by auditors and demonstrate a commitment to transparency with our investors and regulators, and compliance with all laws.”
Republicans discounted the impact of the new information, saying voters already know the scope of Romney’s wealth.
“This is still an election viewed through the lens of the economy and the direction of the country,” said Kevin Madden, a Romney campaign adviser. “Those issues are figuring most prominently in the minds of voters right now.”
Barring a major revelation, the new Bain documents are unlikely to change the race, said Dan Schnur, chairman of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California and a former Republican strategist.
“Most people know Romney’s wealthy and they know that he made his money in all sorts of complicated ways,” he said in an interview. “It’s the equivalent of another organization releasing a trove of documents that says that unemployment is still over 8 percent,” as it has been for 42 consecutive months.
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