This post has been updated.
The New York Times reported today that a fund operated by Bain Capital, the Boston-based private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney, has invested in a Chinese company that provides equipment for government efforts to monitor Chinese citizens at religious institutions, university campuses, and other venues.
Romney, it turns out, isn’t the only prominent American politician connected with that controversial investment: Former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who now chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reported more money than Romney invested in the same fund on his most recent Senate disclosure form.
The funds, Kerry staffers say, are part of a Heinz Family Trust of which his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, widow of former Pennsylvania Sen.John Heinz III, sole heir to the Heinz ketchup and food fortune, is one beneficiary.
“This isn’t Senator Kerry’s investment,” said Kerry spokeswoman Jodi Seth. “He is not and never has been a beneficiary of any Heinz family trusts, which were established before they knew each other, and are controlled by independent trustees.”
Romney founded Bain Capital in the mid-1980s and has a relatively modest investment – up to $250,000 -- in the Bain Capital Asia Fund, which recently purchased Uniview Technologies, a Chinese firm that makes infrared cameras and software products that allow police to share images.
The Romney connection was reported prominently Friday by the New York Times in a story noting that a blind trust in the name of Ann Romney recently reported holding a $100,000 to $250,000 stake in the Bain Asia fund.
The story did not mention that Kerry reported a somewhat larger holding in the same fund. Disclosure reports filed with the Senate last year show that Teresa Heinz Kerry held a $500,000 to $1,000,000 stake in the same fund in 2010.
The Obama re-election campaign jumped on the report, saying it showed Romney’s hypocrisy and illustrated why the candidate hadn’t been forthcoming about the details of his finances.
“Mitt Romney has criticized President Obama on the campaign trail for putting economic interests ahead of human rights in China. But this new revelation about Romney’s financial interest in a Chinese surveillance company suggests that Romney is not living up to his own publicly-stated values,” said Stephanie Cutter, the Obama deputy campaign manager, in a statement. ”
A Romney spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, dismissed what she called “a ridiculous attack from President Obama” and noted that “Governor Romney left Bain 13 years ago, and his investments are in a blind trust.” She said Obama was “trying desperately to change the subject from price shock at the gas pump, which is creating more misery for people trying to survive his bad economy.”
. Unlike the Kerrys, the Romneys file their taxes together, and Ann Romney’s assets are shared jointly with her husband.
The Bain investment, like similar deals made by other prominent U.S. companies, has come in for criticism from human rights activists who say it violates the spirit of U.S. rules prohibiting export of crime control equipment to China. The sanctions were introduced two decades ago after the bloody suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests.