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Mitt Romney's financial assets: Why his portfolio matters to Americans

Brad KnickerbockerThe Christian Science Monitor

As everybody knows, Mitt Romney is a very wealthy man.

Net worth somewhere around a quarter billion dollars, not counting the $100 million trust set up for his five sons. Offshore investments. A beach house in La Jolla, Calif., a town house in Belmont, Mass., and a summer compound on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

Photos of the Romney clan riding jet skis and a large power boat on vacation in New Hampshire this week led Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi to wonder if this was Mr. Romney’s “John Kerry moment” or perhaps proof of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous line about the rich: “They are different from you and me.”

In Senator Kerry’s case, it was the photo of him wind-surfing in 2004 when he was the Democratic challenger to former president George W. Bush – an image Republicans quickly used to show that Kerry’s wealth allowed him to live an elite life-style … “different from you and me.”

(Romney and Kerry are both tall, wealthy, patrician-looking Ivy Leaguers from Massachusetts. In President Obama’s debate prep, Kerry will act the role of Romney.)

It’s a ticklish political situation for Romney, or at least has the potential to be. He wouldn’t be the richest man ever to run for the White House (that would be Ross Perot back in 1992 and 1996). But if elected, he would be the wealthiest president ever, according to the detailed reporting of Forbes Magazine’s “wealth team.”

Back during the Republican primaries and debates, it took some needling by Newt Gingrich and others to get Romney to release his tax returns for just two years (far fewer than the 23 years he provided Sen. John McCain in 2008 when Romney was being considered as McCain’s running mate). Meanwhile, thanks to the reporting of Forbes and others, the specifics of Romney’s wealth are known in greater detail.

Among them: $52 million in Bain & Company and Bain Capital funds, $23 million in mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), $36 million worth of Federal Home Loan Banks consolidated obligations, an estimated $10 million of structured notes from Goldman Sachs and BNP Paribas, and a personal loan of $400,000 to the Romneys’ horse trainer.

This week, more details were revealed.

“For nearly 15 years, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's financial portfolio has included an offshore company that remained invisible to voters as his political star rose,” the Associated Press reported.

“Based in Bermuda, Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd. was not listed on any of Romney's state or federal financial reports,” according to the AP. “The company is among several Romney holdings that have not been fully disclosed, including one that recently posted a $1.9 million earning suggesting he could be wealthier than the nearly $250 million estimated by his campaign.”

There have been no suggestions that the Romneys’ sheltering some of their wealth in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands breaks US tax law.

"Everything on the filings is reported as required," campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. "If OGE [the US Office of Government Ethics] has an issue with any filings, they would let us know."

Not surprisingly, liberal organizations, such as the Think Progress political blog, are jumping up and down demanding more answers. That’s to be expected from Romney’s political opponents.

But as Vanity Fair observed in its own long investigative piece on Romney’s off-shore investments, “Given his reticence to discuss his wealth, it’s only natural to wonder how he got it, how he invests it, and if he pays all his taxes on it.”

As the TV political scenes focused on the Romney’s $8 million summer place, Obama couldn’t help mentioning that his family vacations growing up featured Greyhound bus travel and the swimming pools at Holiday Inn motels. Realizing the importance of leisure time imagery, however, especially given millions of Americans’ economic worries, he did cancel this summer’s Obama family vacation at the resort island of Martha’s Vineyard.