Romney's wealth endures but conflicts persist

By Stephen Braun

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Aug. 12 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Similarly, the charity bought and sold $10,600 worth of Baidu Inc., a major Chinese Web search engine company that has been accused by human rights activists of collusion with strict Chinese government censorship of the Internet.

The charity also bought and sold $37,345 worth of Beckton Dickinson, a bioscience company that has helped develop environments for the growth of stem cells and funded grants for stem cell research.

In 2007 and 2008, the charity also purchased and sold hundreds of other investment shares — worth thousands of dollars — in more than a dozen other foreign and domestic companies that have conducted dealings with Iran, China or stem cell research.

The companies included China-based businesses Hang Lung, Telefonica and China Mobile Limited; medical research companies such as Merck, Roche Holdings and Fisher Scientific; and companies that dealt with Iran, among them Schlumberger, Gazprom and Total.

Many of those companies, which had been shown as investments on Romney's 2007 financial disclosure, were listed as sold on his 2011 report. And the new report clearly shows that the blind trust has pruned many other stock purchases among the former Massachusetts governor's former investments. While the 2007 report ran to 47 pages, the new disclosure is only 28 pages.

His current investments are spread through domestic and international stocks and funds, including energy companies, banks and financial products and companies specializing in health care, technology and consumer and manufacturing goods.

Romney's new disclosure also shows signs of more cautious investing, a response to the recent recession. The report details an investment of $250,000 to $500,000 in gold since 2007, a period when gold prices climbed.

Romney's disclosures describe at least $3 million in investments from Bain Capital, the Boston venture capital firm he co-founded in 1984. Some of the assets were part of a retirement agreement with Bain and reflected the values of those investments before the agreement expired in December 2010.

Bain is also the former employer of Edward Conard, a former Romney co-worker and investor who secretly contributed $1 million — through a short-lived company, W Spann LLC — to a Romney-leaning political committee, Restore Our Future, before coming forward as the donor.

In comparison to Romney's $190 million to $250 million fortune, Obama reported assets last May worth $2.2 million to $7.5 million, swelled by royalties from the books "Dreams From My Father" and "Audacity of Hope."

Romney has donated the proceeds of "No Apology," his most recent campaign-related book, to charity.

Among Romney's chief rivals, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, by comparison, holds fewer assets. He earned about $120,000 a year in salary as governor. He has outstanding credit lines on his suburban home. Upon retirement, he'll be able to draw on public pensions from his time as a legislator and governor.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has assets with a net worth of $500,000 to $1 million, 2010 House financial disclosure records show. That includes a family farm in Wisconsin and Bachmann & Associates in Lake Elmo, Minn., a psychotherapy clinic headed by her husband, Marcus.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is expected to announce his GOP candidacy this weekend, has disclosed two blind trusts worth more than $50,000 combined, but some reports have estimated Perry's financial worth as closer to $1 million.

Despite the vast personal reserves at Romney's command, the financial assets wielded by presidential candidates may matter less this time around, thanks in part to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling known as "Citizens United."

The court ruling overturned a ban on corporate spending in federal elections. In turn, big-money donors this election cycle have already given millions to outside political committees — known as super PACs — in support of candidates.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Romney raised $88.5 million in campaign funds in 2007, with $35.4 million coming out of his own pocket.

So far in 2011, Romney leads his GOP rivals in garnering super PAC money as well. The pro-Romney Restore Our Future raised more than $12 million during the first six months of 2011, according to FEC records.

The pro-Romney PAC has had to fend off questions surrounding the shielded identities of some of its top donors, such as Conard. Meanwhile, other groups have said they are setting up PACs in support of Bachmann and Perry.

Associated Press writers Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minn., and Chris Tomlinson in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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