Gawker just dumped 950 pages of internal documents, mostly internal audited financial statements, from 20 funds tied to Bain Capital, investment vehicles for Mitt Romney, which they claim “reveal the mind-numbing, maze-like, and deeply opaque complexity with which Romney has handled his wealth, the exotic tax-avoidance schemes available only to the preposterously wealthy that benefit him, the unlikely (for a right-wing religious Mormon) places that his money has ended up, and the deeply hypocritical distance between his own criticisms of Obama’s fiscal approach and his money managers’ embrace of those same policies.”
The documents are quite jargon-heavy, and much of the information in the document dump that’s been revealed so far consist of reiteration or extended details of information that has already been revealed about tax-dodging schemes. So I’m not totally sure that we’re going to get so much out of these Bain documents, at least not right away. They add some color to the well-known fact that Romney, like many rich people, goes to great lengths to shelter his money from taxation.
However, we did learn something pretty valuable about Mitt Romney’s tax situation today. In fact, we learned it from Romney himself.
Mitt Romney said one reason he doesn’t want to release more of his tax returns is because it would show how much money he has given to the Mormon Church.
“Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given,” Romney said in an upcoming interview with Parade magazine. The Salt Lake Tribune previously reported on the interview. “This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one’s financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It’s a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church.”
This is a pretty interesting development. Romney says that he doesn’t want to make his tithing public. There are probably two reasons for that. One, the Mormon Church has become an increasingly political organization, practically running the effort to ban marriage equality in California. The money Romney tithed to the church can pretty easily be connected to that effort, and Romney doesn’t want a form out there showing it. However, we have his 2010 and 2011 tax returns, and they show that Romney donated 10% of his income in those years to the Church (his family charity gave another 10% or so). This is just a made-up excuse, then, as we already have all the data we need to make that Romney/Mormon church political practices connection.
The alternative explanation is that Romney doesn’t want other Mormons seeing how he shortchanged the church with tithing. You remember when Romney made his previous comments about taxes and charity, he said he never paid less than 13%, and with charity it would be over 20%. But the church requests 10% of income in tithing. And presumably tithing is not the only charity to which Romney donates. So among the many other theories for why Romney won’t release those back tax returns – including how he doesn’t want anyone to see the address he uses on the returns, for fear of a voter and tax fraud claim – we can add the idea that he doesn’t want to show potentially a less than 10% figure in tithing, out of personal embarrassment. There’s also the point that the Mormon Church doesn’t ask for tax receipts to corroborate that their members pay the 10%. So the church may be as shocked as everyone else at the gross income totals, showing that Romney shortchanged his church.