Thursday, September 06, 2012

Were Mitt Romney's Tax Returns Stolen?

There's a story circulating the outskirts of the internet that an anonymous group says that it stole copies of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's tax records and is threatening to release them publicly unless they're paid $1 million in a Bitcoin (Internet currency) account.

The local Democratic and Republican parties in Williamson County, Tennessee where the PricewaterhouseCoopers office is located both received packages from the hackers containing a thumb drive and a letter outlining a competitive-bidding ransom scheme to start a bidding war against each other over the release of Romney’s taxes.

"Using your office" in Franklin, Tennessee, the group tells PricewaterhouseCoopers in an online posting, "we were able to gain access to your network file servers and copy over the tax documents for one Willard M Romney and Ann D Romney."

It threatens to send encrypted copies to "all major news outlets" and warns, "If the parties interested do not want the encrypted key released to the public to unlock these documents on September 28 of this year then payment will be necessary."

If the money is not received, "the entire world will be allowed to view the documents with a publicly released key to unlock everything," the group warns.

The website Pastebin has a piece up that allegedly describes the supposed caper:

Romney’s 1040 tax returns were taken from the PWC office 8/25/2012 by gaining access to the third floor via a gentleman working on the 3rd floor of the building. Once on the 3rd floor, the team moved down the stairs to the 2nd floor and setup shop in an empty office room. During the night, suite 260 was entered, and all available 1040 tax forms for Romney were copied. A package was sent to the PWC on suite 260 with a flash drive containing a copy of the 1040 files, plus copies were sent to the Democratic office in the county and copies were sent to the GOP office in the county at the beginning of the week also containing flash drives with copies of Romney’s tax returns before 2010. A scanned signature image for Mitt Romney from the 1040 forms were scanned and included with the packages, taken from earlier 1040 tax forms gathered and stored on the flash drives.

According to Williamson County Democratic Party Chairman Peter Burr, who received one of the packages, the letter states the Democrats have the option of outbidding PricewaterhouseCoopers or the GOP in order to ensure publication.

For its part, PricewaterhouseCoopers has said that they are working with the U.S. Secret Service and that there is no evidence that any of their data was compromised or that there was any unauthorized access.In fact, it would be very difficult to do this electronically without leaving footprints.And a 'scanned copy' of Mitt Romney's signature can be found on the net in maybe 2 minutes, tops.

But of course, this all might be nothing more than an elaborate story cooked up by the Obama Administration to cover the real crime.

Remember that the IRS is a federal agency under President Obama's direct control, and if he and his campaign wants copies of Mitt and Ann Romney's tax returns, all he has to do is shoot a memo over to Tim Geithner to get their hands on them.I would almost guarantee they already have, and that the misleading attack ads are ready to roll.

And what better way to cover the sudden onslaught than to come up with the story of an anonymous hacker group?

But of course, the president would never be a part of such a dishonorable, illegal and dishonest scheme just to win an election, right?

Would he ever. Just ask former Illinois Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan, who was beating a certain Democrat named Barack Obama back in 2004 until somebody went judge shopping and got a Democrat appointed judge in Los Angeles to issue a court order making Ryan's sealed records from an acrimonious divorce and custody battle public. Ryan subsequently left the race.

If I'm right (and obviously, I hope I'm not), I still don't think this is going to be a game changer,with everything else that's going on.If nothing else, Governor Romney, who's not stupid, has to have considered the possibility that his tax records would be illegally leaked and prepared certain counter measures.

We'll see...

1 comment:

B.Poster said...

As I understand it Mr. Romney has released his 2010 tax return and will release his 2011 tax return when it is completed. This will likely be around 10/15.

As someone with experience in this area, I can attest to how complicated tax returns for someone like Mr. Romney can be. As such, it is unlikely that there is any feasible way that his federal, state, and local tax returns could be completed by the pre extension due date of 4/15.

The IRS has three years from the due date of a tax return to audit it unless fraud is suspected. As such, it might be reasonable to expect Mr. Romney to release his 2009 tax return but to request any thing prior to that time is unreasonable. Also, the tax returns of a person of Mr. Romney's wealth and prominence are very likely closely scrutinized every year by the IRS. As such, fraud in this area by the Romney's is exceedingly unlikely.

In the unlikely event that these returns were not scrutinized or they were scrutinized and some thing slipped by the IRS, the only real problems I see Mr. Romney could have here, from a legal point of view, is back in 2009 the IRS learned of monies in certain Swiss bank accounts and offered amnesty for certain taxpayers if they would come forward and pay taxes on these earnings. If they did so, they could avoid certain penalties and they could avoid jail time. If Mr. Romney took advantage of something like this, that could be a huge problem for him.

Also, he has claimed that he was inactive in Bain Capital even though he was listed on the company records. As someone with experience in this area, I know it is quite common to list shareholders as officers even though they really aren't active. As such, there is likely nothing there. However, if any of these entities had losses, the tax deductions for an active shareholder are much better than for one that is inactive. If he took deductions as though he were active in the entities and now he claims he wasn't this could be a huge problem.

I doubt he or the Republicans would be dumb enough to put themselves in such a position of having a presidential candidate who was a tax cheat and had to claim amnesty for foreign income or claimed losses as an active member when he was not, or could they be that dumb? From the beginning the RNC made it clear we could have Mitt or we could have Mitt as our nominee. Perhaps they were all so eager to give us Mitt that they overlooked certain things. In the case of ideology, smart people can become dumb!!

From a strictly pr perspective, I see two conceivable problems. 1.)These are VERY complex tax returns. Often times the tax treatment of some items is subject to multiple interpretations. As such, the Democrats may try to "cherry pick" certain things to cast the Romneys in a certain light. 2.)It is not unusual that high income taxpayers are entitled to certain tax benefits not available to others. As such, it is conceivable his tax rate for some of the years in question could come in under 10%. This is a good thing actually. We need to be rewarding those who achieve. High income taxpayers are more likely to create jobs than are others!! We need to be rewarding them for this not punishing their achievments.

In the final analysis, these tax returns will become public knowledge one way or the other. Someone will simply "leak" them. Like you I'd suspect Mr. Romney has prepared for this.