Romney's Offshore Accounts: Should America Care?

There has been a lot of discussion in the media regarding Mitt Romney and his offshore investment accounts since it became clear that he would be the Republican presidential nominee. Are stories on Romney's investment strategies just inflammatory hit pieces, or is the offshore account issue something that voters should be concerned about? I think there are probably two answers to this.

I think the fact that Romney has utilized accounts offshore as a private citizen (something that his spokespeople have not denied in any way) is a non-issue. Tax and investment laws allow such things, and such accounts have rightly been cited as a means to diversify various risks. It may seem a bit 1 percent-ish to certain segments of the population, and people may have legitimate gripes about the gray areas that exist in the tax code, but there is no whiff of wrongdoing surrounding how Romney holds his money under current rules.

However, Candidate Romney requires a slightly different analysis. While the legality of such accounts does not change once someone is a public figure, Romney should likely move his monies back to U.S. territory for optics if nothing else. Now, it could be that there is something in those accounts that he doesn't want anyone to see (perhaps connected to his ongoing refusal to provide old tax returns?). It has also been reported that some of the offshore accounts are tied up in ongoing Bain Capital payment arrangements. Romney has continuously attempted to separate himself from Bain in the public's mind; he may be concerned that such accounts may just fuel speculation that he is more involved on an ongoing basis with his old company than he has led on.

However, if his campaign wants to avoid making 'Mitt's finances' the 'Kenyan birth' issue of the 2012 campaign, it would do well to reduce any potential reason for stories about them to stay in the news.

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