On Sunday, as predicted, the Obama campaign and several top Democrats launched a coordinated attack in which they painted Mitt Romney as a secretive businessman, following Vanity Fair's extensive report on his offshore bank accounts and failure to release more tax returns. Obama used the article to his advantage, switching the focus away from the tepid jobs report released on Friday. However, this probably wasn't the best weekend for Romney to party in the Hamptons with cigar-chomping billionaires.
Romney was hammered on the Sunday morning news shows over accusations that he set up a Swiss bank account, a corporation in Bermuda, and holdings in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying U.S. taxes. In an interview with CNN, Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs quipped, "This is a guy whose slogan is 'believe in America' when it should be 'business in Bermuda.'" On Fox News Sunday, Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, "Americans need to ask themselves, why does an American businessman need a Swiss bank account and secretive investments like that?" And on Face the Nation Senator Dick Durbin added, “He’s the first and only candidate for the president of the United States with a Swiss bank account, with tax shelters, with tax avoidance schemes that involve so many foreign countries."
Democrats also pointed out that Romney has still only released his 2010 tax return and an estimate of his taxes for 2011. In a touch of irony characteristic of the Romney campaign, his father, George Romney, set a precedent followed by most presidential candidates by releasing twelve years of returns during the 1968 campaign.
In its response, the Romney campaign called the "unfounded character assault" "unseemly and disgusting." Campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul added:
Mitt Romney had a successful career in the private sector, pays every dime of taxes he owes, has given generously to charitable organizations, and served numerous causes greater than himself.
In a new video posted Sunday afternoon, the Obama campaign acknowledges that Romney's investments are legal, but suggests such practices are still un-American. Spokesman Ben LaBolt says:
Mitt Romney is effectively saying that he hasn't technically broken any laws by keeping his money in offshore tax havens. Here's the question. Is not technically breaking the law a high enough standard for someone who wants to be president of the United States?
While the vast majority of Americans probably don't understand exactly how these offshore investment affected Romney's taxes, the Obama campaign is hoping that they'll recognize the term "Swiss bank account" as a phrase frequently uttered by movie villains.
Despite the attacks, many Americans still insist Romney is just "a plain talking guy." Though, as the Associated Press notes, that statement came from Peter Cohen, the former Chairman and CEO of Shearson Lehman Brothers, who "made the comment as he chewed a cigar in his black Range Rover outside a Romney fundraiser expected to generate $3 million."