Candidate Uses Justification That He Once Criticized

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

ROMNEY AND BLIND TRUSTS

Candidate Uses Justification That He Once Criticized

Now that the assets of his blind trusts are public, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is facing lots of questions about where he made his recent millions -- on companies that perform stem cell research, run casinos and do business in Sudan, for instance. The die-hard Boston Red Sox fan even ended up with an investment in the reviled New York Yankees' cable network.

Romney's defense is one well used by politicians past: He had no control or say over where the money was invested since he created the blind trusts. "Beneficiaries are prohibited from directing the activities of a blind trust," spokesman Matt Rhoades said today.

But Romney didn't buy that explanation a decade ago when Democrat Ted Kennedy used it during their 1994 Senate race to explain a controversial land deal made by his trust. "The blind trust is an age-old ruse," Romney was quoted as saying back then. "You give a blind trust rules. You can say to a blind trust, don't invest in properties which would be in conflict of interest or where the seller might think they're going to get an advantage from me."

Romney disclosed yesterday that his blind trusts earned between $17 million and $69 million in income in the past 18 months.

One of his trusts owned between $100,000 and $250,000 in stock in the biotechnology and drug company Novo Nordisk, which describes itself on its Web site as an "active partner in national and international cooperative projects involving stem cells." Many religious conservatives, whose votes Romney is courting, oppose the scientific use of embryonic stem cells because the cells often come from aborted fetuses.

Romney's trusts also recently unloaded numerous stocks -- valued at between $150,000 and $1,165,000 -- in casino operators MGM Mirage, Harrah's and Boyd Gaming. Many Christian conservatives -- as well as leaders of Romney's Mormon faith -- morally oppose gambling.

The Romney trusts reported owning and then selling stock worth between $100,001 and $250,000 in the Schlumberger global oil services company, which was identified as doing business with the Sudanese government by members of Congress pushing legislation to end the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.

It remains to be seen how conservatives accept Romney's defense about the investments made by his blind trust. Red Sox fans -- known for their unwavering hatred of the Yankees -- may be a tougher sell.

-- John Solomon


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