Point of View Columns

Romney is Running for King

There seems to be only one logical explanation for the continued arrogant refusal of Mitt Romney to release more than two years of tax returns – he is running for King of America not President. That would make sense. His stubborn and seemingly implacable stance in the face of over a half century of American presidential political tradition seems to indicate that in Romney’s world view, his future subjects need to get over it and get used to it. It would seem that his regal dismissal of inquiries into his finances is a preview of what would be an imperial and imperious Romney presidency.

In 1968 George Romney, Mitt Romney’s father, voluntarily disclosed several years of his tax returns as he began his campaign for president. This established a tradition whereby every major candidate for president has disclosed a minimum of five years of tax returns – every Republican, every Democrat. Every candidate that is, except for Mitt Romney.

In 1974, after the resignation of Richard Nixon, President Gerald Ford appointed then New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller as vice president. Rockefeller, an heir to one of the greatest fortunes in American history was required to appear before a Congressional hearing to confirm his appointment.

As part of this process Rockefeller provided the people of the United States with not only his tax returns, he also provided an exhaustive set of financial statements. This information not only provided a clear picture of Nelson Rockefeller’s financial holdings and interests, it also provided unprecedented insight into the fortunes of the entire Rockefeller family.

No one ever mistook Nelson Rockefeller for being a populist, but he clearly recognized the need for the citizens of the United States to be clear on the financial interests and holdings of a person who would be a heartbeat away from the presidency. The comprehensive nature of his disclosures made it clear that he felt that he had nothing to hide and that his wealth and success did not need to be shrouded in secrecy and denial, hidden behind stonewalls. Clearly Mitt Romney thinks differently.

Incredibly, Mitt Romney has determined that tradition and common sense have no application in his personal universe. The close to half century tradition of presidential candidates disclosing their tax returns does not apply to Mitt Romney according to Mitt Romney. The common sense notion that anyone who is going to have responsibility for almost a third of a billion people and a multi-trillion dollar budget should let people know where his/her financial interest lie does not apply to Mitt Romney according to Mitt Romney.

We already know that Mitt Romney is a rich man. He touts his financial success as a badge of honor and flaunts his wealth with his many mansions and expensive toys and dancing horses. We already know that Mitt Romney has sequestered significant wealth in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. None of this public information indicates illegality, so interested observers, like the American people have to be wondering what is he trying to hide?

Mitt Romney and his wife Ann have planted their feet in cement on this issue. Mrs. Romney has been quoted as saying that “the American people already know everything that they need to know” when it comes to the finances of the Romney family. At least she didn’t suggest that the American people eat cake.

Despite the fact that senior members of the Republican Party have implored him to disclose his tax returns, he refuses to do so. He is so welded to secrecy that his actions seem suspicious to say the least. If he is wealthier than presumed, could he be richer than a Rockefeller? How much money could he possibly have in Swiss and Cayman accounts? And what about the Isle of Man and Vanuatu accounts?

And then there is the matter of hypocrisy. When he was being considered by John McCain for the vice presidential nomination in 2008, Mitt Romney reportedly turned over 23 years of tax returns to the McCain campaign. Clearly he believes that the American people are not entitled to a similar level of information.

To take hypocrisy to even higher levels, when vetting Paul Ryan for the vice presidential nomination, the Romney campaign requested and received several years of Ryan’s tax returns. Clearly the American people are not entitled to the same level of information.

Every American citizen has a right to privacy. However, a man or a woman who decides to run for President of the United States must, of necessity, forego much of that privacy it goes with the territory of presuming to be the Chief Executive of the United States.

Mitt Romney doesn’t have to disclose his tax returns. He also doesn’t have to be president.