Democrats sync attacks on Romney’s tax returns, bank accounts

Targeting personal finances is a distraction, GOP says

Prominent Democrats, including the governor of Maryland, the party’s No. 2 man in the Senate and a top Obama re-election strategist, launched a coordinated attack Sunday on Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s finances.

At issue are the former Massachusetts governor’s offshore accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere, with Romney critics charging that they prove he’s most interested in maximizing personal profits while potentially avoiding taxes.

Republicans countered that the focus on Mr. Romney’s checkbook, which picked up steam after a damning Vanity Fair article on the subject last week, is meant to distract from President Obama’s weak jobs record and inability to jump-start the economy.

Sunday’s all-out assault began on “Fox News Sunday,” with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz pushing Mr. Romney to release more tax returns and blasting his international bank accounts and investments.

“Americans need to ask themselves, why does an American businessman need a Swiss bank account and secretive investments like that?” she asked.

Former Obama administration spokesman Robert Gibbs, now an adviser to the president’s 2012 campaign, took a similar tack while mocking Mr. Romney’s campaign slogan.

Mitt Romney’s slogan is ‘believe in America.’ It should be ‘business in Bermuda,’” Mr. Gibbs said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Not to be outdone, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said Mr. Romney’s offshore accounts prove he’s unequipped to create jobs.

“I’ve never known of a Swiss bank account to build an American bridge, a Swiss bank account to create American jobs or a Swiss bank account to rebuild the levees to protect the people of New Orleans,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“That’s not an economic strategy for moving our country forward,” he added.

Democrats, however, failed to mention the Obama administration’s own ties to Swiss banks.

Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Mona Sutphen, who served from 2009 through 2011, now works as a macro-analyst at Swiss financial giant UBS.

Robert Wolf, the chairman and CEO of UBS’ American operations, currently serves on the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Those ties have received relatively little attention when compared with the charges now being lobbed against Mr. Romney.

His campaign has begun to push back, with campaign spokesman Kevin Madden assuring the public that Mr. Romney is not, as some Democrats have suggested, dodging taxes by depositing money in other nations.

“He hasn’t paid a penny less in taxes of where these funds are domiciled,” he said recently. “His liability is exactly the same as if he held the fund investments directly in the U.S. As a U.S. citizen, he is accountable for U.S. taxes. Some investments in some foreign countries can be tax havens. But Mitt Romney does not hold any such investments.”

Mr. Madden’s explanation wasn’t enough for Democrats such as Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” he said offshore accounts prove Mr. Romney is either a tax dodger or that he doubts the economic strength of the U.S.

“There is just no way to explain it. You either get a Swiss bank account to conceal what you’re doing or you believe the Swiss franc is stronger than the American dollar,” he said.

Mr. Romney’s surrogates quickly came to his defense on Sunday, putting the spotlight back on Mr. Obama and his lack of private-sector experience and failed promises to keep the nation’s jobless rate below 8 percent.

“We’ve got a president today who’s never run a business, never run anything including a lemonade stand before he was president of the United States,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said on CBS.

He added that when voters head to the polls in November, they’ll remember the Obama campaign’s desperate attempts to divert attention from the economy.

“I think voters will consider all of the distractions thrown out by the Obama campaign,” Mr. Jindal said.

Another Romney backer, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, said that Sunday’s round of charges — along with previous attacks on Mr. Romney’s tenure as the head of private-equity firm Bain Capital — aren’t just meant to distract, but also meant to persuade the American people that he can’t be trusted.

“What’s wrong with Mitt Romney, from the left, is that he’s a bad person. Senator Durbin makes him sound like he’s dishonest,” Mr. Barbour said on “Face the Nation.”

The former Massachusetts governor “is a guy who has a spectacular career and record,” Mr. Barbour said.

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