Romney’s Dishonest China Claims

During the last presidential debate, Obama criticized Romney for the fact that Bain Capital owns a company called Sensata that is firing 170 American workers and sending their jobs to China. Romney’s counter-attack was to claim that Obama’s pension is also invested in Chinese companies. Laura Clawson shows why this is nonsense:

See, Obama has between $50,000 and $100,000 in a defined benefit pension plan from the Illinois General Assembly (PDF). The Illinois General Assembly retirement system has some Sensata Technologies stock. So, uh, everyone look at Obama! He too stands to profit from Sensata—in 11 years when he becomes eligible to collect his pension from two jobs ago, a pension in which he’s one of hundreds of participants in a $60 million fund (PDF). The Romney campaign, by the way, is billing this as Obama’s “personal pension fund.” Every other member of the Illinois state legislature, past and present, might be surprised to hear this.

Obama has zero control over that pension fund. But Romney is personally invested, to the tunes of tens of millions of dollars, in the Bain Capital funds used to buy Sensata. Romney continually hides behind the claim that all of his investments are in a “blind trust,” but when he was running against Ted Kennedy he called blind trusts an “age-old ruse.” And as Mother Jones reported last week, he has a great deal of control over those funds:

Through Romney’s individual and family “blind” trusts—managed by his personal lawyer, R. Bradford Malt—the Romneys traded more than 25,000 shares in Chinese firms, including some based in Hong Kong. Some of these investments have previously been reported in the media and raised by the Obama campaign, but others have gone unnoticed. Overall, the stock investments netted the Romneys a profit of more than $90,000 in 2010 and 2011. (Some of the individual investments were losers.) While that sum is a pittance in light of the candidate’s vast personal wealth, it represents a significant amount for ordinary working Americans. Romney has long invested in China, putting millions into Chinese firms back when he ran Bain Capital, as MoJo‘s DC bureau chief David Corn first exposed in several reports this summer.

Romney has said that he has no role in managing his personal investments; one of his aidestold the Financial Times recently that Malt works “to make the investments in the blind trust conform to Governor Romney’s positions, and whenever it comes to his attention that there is something inconsistent, he ends the investment.”

And as Romney himself said in 1994, “you can always tell the blind trust what it can and cannot do. You give a blind trust rules.”

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • cry4turtles

    Guess we’re not supposed to notice the difference between “pension” and “trust fund.” I’m no financial genius, but I know they’re different.

  • Ben P

    You know, I kinda wondered that during the debate. Romney asked Obama “have you looked at your own pension fund?”

    I thought, what job has Obama worked where he could possibly have a pension?

  • slc1

    Re Ben P @ #2

    As I understand it, Obama will have some pension benefits accruing from his 4 years in the Senate and also from his 4 years as president (which would become 8 years if he is reelected). This, of course, is in addition to any pension benefits accruing from his sojourn in the Illinois legislature.

  • Ben P

    As I understand it, Obama will have some pension benefits accruing from his 4 years in the Senate and also from his 4 years as president (which would become 8 years if he is reelected). This, of course, is in addition to any pension benefits accruing from his sojourn in the Illinois legislature.

    Ed says above that it’s the Illinois State pension fund that Romney is referencing.

    But yeah, I’m aware that senators, representatives etc get federal retirement benefits. Former presidents basically get a cabinet level official’s salary (~$200k) for the rest of their life.

    But to my knowledge there’s no pension fund associated with federal government benefits. The government just pays those as ongoing payroll expenses.

  • rory

    R. Bradford Malt? Did all these folks’ parents buy the same ‘Big Book of Horribly Pretentious Baby Names?’

  • naturalcynic

    After having worked for a Mormon stockbroker, I find that RMoney’s investments in whatever are typical. He had no problem with investing [and advising clients] in tobacco, booze or whatever. No ethical considerations other than making money.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Doesn’t the U of Chicago also have a faculty pension plan?

  • Woof

    Malt works “to make the investments in the blind trust conform to Governor Romney’s positions, and whenever it comes to his attention that there is something inconsistent, he ends the investment.”

    Damn. That’s one busy trust administrator!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003657987619 barefootbree

    No comment on the present story, just spreading a new meme. Somebody’s come up with a new name for Romney: Money Boo Boo.

    Do with that what you will. 😀

  • Michael Heath

    I find Mitt Romney’s business practices which left devastation in his wake thoroughly contemptible. But I continually see his and similarly bad behavior presented as a default argument for economic isolationism.

    Partisan tribalism at the expense of the national interest is obviously bad. But so is tribalism at the national level promoting win/lose deals which hamper the long-term growth of all humans. For the U.S. to thrive, we need political leaders at the federal and even the state level who understand how to invest and do business across borders, especially in China. Such policies will cost jobs in some areas but should increase growth in other areas as economic growth flourishes from such policies.

    So I cringe when Democrats start decrying the opening of business ventures in China which cost U.S. jobs here, for two reasons:

    1) It demonstrates they understand as much of basic economics as a YEC does of evolutionary biology.

    2) It’s really bad policy long-, intermediate- and most likely, short-term as well. We lose.

    It’s really quite simple, prudent economic policies put humans and the environment above the concerns of any one country’s citizens, including our own. And the former value has been with us since the founding where the framers focused primarily on optimizing the rights of people, not citizens. Sure they were defective in who people were, but their set of protections already extended beyond mere citizens. We should always progress from there, not revert due to ignorant populist sentiments.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    This:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/10/13/1143996/-The-Sansata-Story-Could-Destroy-Romney

    is fucking unbelievable, but it’s prolly true.

    Michael Heath:

    I don’t disagree with your prescriptives, as long as you agree that Mittmoroni’s machinations have nothing to do with any economics except those which benefit him.