A treasure trove of leaked documents about Mitt Romney's finances may not contain earth-shattering revelations, but could at least make life awkward for the presumptive Republican nominee for president.
The documents were obtained and posted online by Gawker at a time of unusually high interest in Romney's finances. Though they are not nearly as revealing as the years of tax returns he refuses to release might be, they still have enough information and detail to make Romney uncomfortable. They show he has money indirectly invested in companies on which the Mormon church might frown and also highlight the lengths to which his complicated investments are shielded from taxes.
For example, Romney is invested in Sankaty High Yield Partners II LP, a debt fund affiliated with the private-equity firm Bain Capital, which Romney co-founded. Sankaty has loaned money to a variety of questionable companies, including the now-embattled Las Vegas Sands Corp., according to documents obtained by Gawker.
Las Vegas Sands, which is owned by famed Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, is currently facing multiple Justice Department inquiries. The first focuses on possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a U.S. anti-bribery law, related to the company’s casinos in Macau, China. The second is probing allegations that Las Vegas Sands failed to report millions of dollars of possibly laundered money transferred to its casinos by two big-time gamblers.
Romney’s link to the Adelson-owned corporation is also notable because Adelson has become one of the primary bankrollers of the Republican party in recent years. The man, who some refer to as the Republican George Soros, has spent $41.1 million so far to oust President Obama and other Democrats, according to the New Yorker, and he’s promised to spend as much as a hundred million dollars to achieve his goal.
But Romney’s connection to Sankaty, the fund that loaned money to Las Vegas Sands, isn’t exactly direct. In 2011, Romney’s IRA held a stake worth between $250,000 and $500,000 in the company, and the Ann Romney Blind Trust held a stake worth zero, according to Gawker. In 2006, the Ann Romney trust held a stake worth more than $100,000 in the company, and Romney’s IRA stake was worth somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million.
Sankaty’s $3 million loan to Las Vegas Sands was made in 2009, according to Gawker. Though the Gawker report brings the connection to light, it’s worth noting that much of the information about Romney’s relationship with Sankaty was already publicly available through filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Some in the financial media quickly dismissed the importance of all of the documents Gawker released, citing the public availability of much of the information they contained and the lack of any unusually damning information. "It appears that folks looking for a bombshell are going to be disappointed," wrote Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider.
Still, the document dump is likely an unwelcome development for Romney, whose investments, taxes and bank accounts have been the subject of intense scrutiny on the campaign trail. Romney has been accused of holding some of his millions in offshore tax havens and he was forced to defend his tax payments in recent weeks, saying he never paid a rate lower than 13 percent over the past decade. The documents released on Thursday show Romney's involvement in numerous offshore investment vehicles that help shield his income from taxes.
And the document release also shines a light on Romney's indirect investments, through Sankaty, in companies that may not exactly jibe with his squeaky clean Mormon image. In addition to Las Vegas Sands, the fund also lent money to American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer, as well as other gambling-related businesses and a cigarette company.
The Mormon church opposes gambling, including lotteries, and encourages others to join the church in “opposing the legalization and government sponsorship of any form of gambling,” according to its website. The church also offers programs to help its members quit smoking.
While Romney’s money is linked to businesses that run counter to the Mormon church’s values, he has also donated substantial cash to the church itself. In 2010 and 2011, Romney and his wife Ann donated $4 million, about 10 percent of their more than $40 million in income.