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Sunday, September 9, 2012

'Reasonable suspicion' applies to Romney

Reader Supported News | Perspective

By Carl Gibson
Reader Supported News
08 September 12

easonable suspicion" should now be able to apply to Mitt Romney as it applies to anyone on the streets of New York City.

I remember being stopped and frisked by the NYPD after my first five minutes in Brooklyn in the spring of 2011. My business partner and I were singled out for a warrantless search and detainment for no other reason than the fact that we were a young white guy and a young black guy in a shady neighborhood late at night. 

Neither of us had drugs or weapons, neither of us had committed a crime, but the NYPD officers who searched us said they were allowed within the law to stop and frisk anyone they deemed "suspicious." Reporters should likewise use that same standard of reasonable suspicion to relentlessly press the Romneys over their tax returns until the truth comes out.

Mitt Romney has been accused of not paying federal income taxes for over ten years by Harry Reid. Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC accused the Romneys of taking advantage of a past tax amnesty granted temporarily by the IRS that allowed those who had committed tax felonies through overseas bank accounts to come forward and pay their taxes without being charged with a felony. Either situation, if true, would be the final nail in the coffin of Romney's presidential bid.

Clearly, the best way for Romney to settle all accusations that he is a felonious tax dodger is to simply reveal through his tax returns that his finances are as clean as a whistle, just like he says they are. The fact that the Romney campaign would prefer to take constant heat from the press about their lack of transparency over their tax returns, even in the face of such bold accusations, should qualify as "reasonable suspicion" that the Romneys have engaged in tax practices that are, at best, excessive and unreasonable in the eyes of regular Americans, and at worst, felonious.

Ann Romney stands by her claim that everything they've done in their finances has been legal. Technically, that could apply to just about anything. It's completely legal for General Electric to only pay a 2% corporate income tax rate to the US government over a decade, through the various schemes and loopholes their lobbyists have successfully convinced chairmen and ranking members of House and Senate tax-writing committees to insert into the tax code.

The same standard of legality could also apply to the Romneys, who have bank accounts in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, if they took advantage of a past tax amnesty for would-be felons in filing returns with the IRS for 2009 or 2011. There's simply no way to tell, since all they'll release is one tax return from 2010 and estimates for 2011. And as in the case of GE, just because something is technically legal doesn't make it right. And GE has it easy - they aren't trying to win the votes of millions of taxpaying American families, most of whom probably don't even have a mansion with its own lobbyist to get around zoning rules, like the Romneys do.

For a candidate who is basing his run for the presidency on the idea that rich people like him pay too much in taxes, and that poor and middle-class people should pay more, not being transparent about how much he actually paid in taxes already looks really, really bad. It looks infinitely worse than being a pair of young guys in a rough neighborhood in the middle of the night. The Romneys deserve to be stopped-and-frisked over their missing tax returns by the press during every interview until they disclose them, because they're going to remain suspicious as hell until they show us what's really in there.

Alternately, it would be very easy for someone at the IRS with a high enough security clearance to scan a few documents, get an encrypted email account, and anonymously send some of the Romney tax returns over to the good folks at WikiLeaks just in time for the presidential debates. Either the Romneys come clean, or someone else will leak the dirt.


Carl Gibson, 25, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. You can contact Carl at carl@rsnorg.org, and listen to his online radio talk show, Swag The Dog, at blogtalkradio.com/swag-the-dog.

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