The Real Goal of Swift-Yachting: Mitt Romney's Tax Returns

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 12 2012 4:43 PM

The Real Goal of Swift-Yachting: Mitt Romney's Tax Returns

Swift-Yaching (v) - To make accusations about the way a candidate acquired vast wealth. See also Bain-boating.

It was the rare moment when Newt Gingrich didn't dream big. In the waning days of the South Carolina primary, Gingrich -- gaining ground by portraying Romney as a job-killing elitist -- demanded his opponent's tax returns. "He ought to release his tax records," he said, "because how do we know what he paid? All you’ve got now is his consultants' spin."

Advertisement

The Gingrich attack was very simple: Romney wasn't like you, he didn't pay his fair share of taxes, and his tax plan would benefit people like him.

Romney eventually (ahead of schedule) released his 2010 tax returns, and the press enjoyed a few days of check-out-how-much-he-owns. Romney's effective tax rate was low (13.1 percent), and that made for a few strong attacks, but that was it.

The Obama campaign's nails-dug-in focus on Bain Capital strikes me as a longer, smarter play about Romney's taxes. What's actually new about Bain Capital's 2001 and 2002 filings? Nothing. We know that Romney had taken a leave of absence from Bain -- he hadn't quit it. We know he only declared $100,000 of income from Bain in 2002, money paid to him as a founder out on leave, not as an executive. How can you figure out whether he was intimately involved with the decisions that the Obama campaign is attacking -- KB Toys, ModusMedia, etc? One way is to see his taxes from the Olympics years, and see what income he got from the company.

I'll repeat: Learning that Romney was listed in Bain Capital's 2000 or 2001 SEC filings doesn't contravene what reporters heard from Romney in 2002. When the Obama campaign says Romney might have committed a "felony," it has almost no ground to stand on. What would debunk the Obamanians? Why, the tax returns would. And the tax returns would let them ask all manner of wealth-baiting questions... like, why is it an excuse that the guy made $100,000, more than double the national per capita income when he wasn't even at Bain Capital?

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

The Ludicrous Claims You’ll Hear at This Company’s “Egg Freezing Parties”

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 1 2014 10:49 AM James Meredith, Determined to Enroll at Ole Miss, Declares His Purpose in a 1961 Letter
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 10:44 AM Everyone’s Favorite Bob’s Burgers Character Gets a Remix You Can Dance to
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 10:27 AM 3,000 French Scientists Are Marching to Demand More Research Funding
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.