Romney says manager of blind trust is sorting out conflicts between investments, policy

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 15 2007 4:55 p.m. MDT

ATLANTA (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Wednesday that the manager of his blind trust is sorting out conflicts between his investments and his policy positions.

Romney faced questions about his wealth as contents of his blind trust, made public this week, showed investments in companies that perform work with embryonic stem cells and foreign energy firms that have business ties to Iran.

Romney, in courting conservatives, has opposed most embryonic stem-cell research. He also has called for government pension systems to divest themselves of stock in companies linked to Iran.

"The trustee of the blind trust has said publicly that he will endeavor to make my investments conform to my positions and I have confidence that he will do that well," Romney told reporters during a campaign stop in Georgia.

The trustee for the Romney assets, R. Bradford Malt, said this week he has managed the blind trust without any direction from Romney. But he said he has tried to sell any stock in companies whose activities conflict with Romney's public stands.

To that end, Malt said, he sold shares of stock in French and Italian energy companies that had business ties to Iran.

Romney's blind trust, however, still owns $50,000 to $100,000 in stock in China Petroleum & Chemical, which has been negotiating a multimillion dollar deal to explore an Iranian oil field.

Romney's blind trust also has $100,000 to $250,000 in stock in Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceutical and health care company that conducts research on embryonic stem cells. The blind trust of Romney's wife, of which Malt is also a trustee, invests in a fund that has stock in Millipore Corp., which provides stem cell lines to researchers.

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said Malt's review of the trust's holdings are a continuing process and stressed that Romney himself cannot influence Malt's decisions.

"The trustee has said he would continue to divest the trust of securities or investments to the best of his ability in a manner consistent with the governor's public statements and policy pronouncements," Madden said.

He said he did not know what Malt specifically intended to do about the trust's stock in Novo Nordisk or China Petroleum.

On it's Web site, Novo Nordisk says it only uses human embryonic stem cells "when it is not anticipated that the same scientific results can be obtained by the use of adult stem cells."

It also states that it only works with stem cells from spare embryos derived from in-vitro fertilization efforts, a position that is consistent with the stance Romney developed as governor of Massachusetts.

But some social conservatives oppose any form of the research, arguing it is destroying viable embryos. Romney said it was his education on embryonic stem cell research that prompted his rightward shift on abortion.

Romney, by far the wealthiest of the presidential candidates, placed his assets in a blind trust after he was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002. He stressed Wednesday that he is in the dark about the trust's holdings.

"I did not direct any of my investments nor did I know of those investments," Romney said.

He and his wife Ann have assets worth between $190 million and $250 million, advisers say.

The former Massachusetts governor began airing a commercial Wednesday in Iowa that offers a 30-second litany from his speech at the straw poll in Ames last weekend. Romney won with the help of generous spending in the state by his campaign and a decision by his major rivals not to participate.

The ad offers no specifics policy points, other than a vow to "strengthen our military" and "secure our border" and "keep our taxes down."

Romney's share of ad time on Iowa stations is relatively modest now; no other Republicans are running ads in the state. He's spending less than $70,000 on the ads airing this week.

So far in the campaign, Romney has spent more than $2 million advertising in Iowa, the leadoff state in the presidential nominating process.

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