Romney's wealth endures but conflicts persist

By Stephen Braun

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Aug. 12 2011 2:38 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's personal wealth — up to $250 million — survived the nation's economic crisis, according to figures released Friday. But his pledge to sell off interests that conflict with his GOP stances did not extend to some investments in a family charity.

The new records make clear that Romney is much wealthier than President Barack Obama or any of Romney's GOP opponents. The immense fortune controlled by Romney and his wife, Ann, is worth $190 million to $250 million — within the same range as his 2007 presidential financial disclosure records, his campaign said.

Romney's financial records, submitted Friday to meet a deadline set by the Federal Election Commission and the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, valued his fortune at $86 million to $264 million.

The campaign, however, reported his wealth within a narrower range.

The holdings reflect Romney's success in running a major Boston venture capital firm and his stewardship of his own investments on Wall Street — a strong base in his drive for influential donors and the Republican nomination. But amid a deep recession and populist outrage, Romney's wealth could prove double-edged, as seen in the controversy brewing over his comment Thursday that "corporations are people."

The former Massachusetts governor was criticized by GOP presidential campaign rivals in 2007 because some of his vast array of investments reaped profits from corporations with interests in Iran, China and embryonic stem research. In response, Romney pledged that his financial portfolio "would conform to my positions."

At the time, Romney urged companies to divest interests in Iran and opposed Chinese human rights violations and the creation of new human stem cell lines for medical research. Although insistent that he had no sway over the blind trust that controlled his investments, Romney said his Boston-based trustee would sort out any conflicts.

Romney's latest report shows that since 2007, his blind trust had sold off shares in many of the companies that posed conflicts with hard-line stances on Iran, China and stem cells. Among the investments listed as sold on the 2011 disclosure are Honeywell, which had aided Iranian gas production through a British subsidiary, and Schlumberger, an oil services company that operated both in Iran and Sudan. Both stocks were managed through a private Goldman Sachs portfolio, the disclosure said.

But IRS records show that between 2007 and 2009, Romney's family charity, the Tyler Charitable Trust, continued to buy and sell other investments in companies that dealt with Iranian businesses, complied with Chinese censorship or aided in stem cell research.

The Romney campaign said that a 2010 filing for the charity is expected later this year but declined to comment on any specific investments in either Romney's personal disclosure or his separate charity filings.

"Governor and Mrs. Romney's assets are managed on a blind basis," Gail Gitcho, communications director for the Romney campaign, said in a statement. "They do not control the investment of these assets."

Both Romney's blind trust assets and his family charity are under the direction of Boston attorney R. Bradford Malt. Echoing Romney, Malt said in 2007 that he would prune out investments that did not comport with Romney's political stances.

"As I become aware that ownership of a stock was inconsistent with public positions, I might sell them," Malt said during a 2007 teleconference.

Yet as late as the 2009 period, tax filings show, Romney's charity bought shares worth $5,734 in Petroleo Brasiliero SA, also known as Petrobras, a Brazilian state-owned energy company that reportedly invested $100 million to develop Iranian oil and natural gas reserves in the Caspian Sea. The charity later sold the shares that year at a loss.

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