Does Mitt Romney Have an In-Law Problem?

PHOTO: Ryan Davies records a support message for Mitt Romney in this YouTube video.

Mitt Romney's rise in business and politics has served as a marketing bonanza for two of his wife's closest relatives, both Utah-based businessmen who have benefited from, and are said to have traded on, their connection to the presidential candidate even as they suffered a succession of embarrassing business and legal difficulties.

Ann Romney's brother Roderick Davies, who filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and nephew Ryan Davies, who oversaw a now-bankrupt green energy venture, have both been out on the campaign trail to offer support for Romney. But back in Utah, the two men have left a trail of unhappy business partners, a number of whom spoke with ABC News to express concern about how the two might try and capitalize on a Romney presidency.

Andy Neff, a Florida financial advisor who says he lost a top client and his own savings investing in Ryan Davies's ill-fated solar energy venture, said Davies repeatedly assured him that his famous uncle Mitt was mentoring him, right up until his company filed for bankruptcy.

"To be quite honest with you," Neff said, "if you're running for President of the United States, you should probably make sure all your family's doing the right, ethical things with people, and not taking advantage of hardworking guys like me and taking my money."

The two have been said to tout their family connections when courting business partners – Neff noted that Ryan Davies once told him a potential investor was welcome to stay at Mitt Romney's Park City mansion (though she never did) when she traveled to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. Davies also told potential clients in a public presentation that Romney's son Josh was a vice president of his Utah clean energy company, Renewable Energy Development Company (REDCO).

After ABC News emailed a question to the Romney campaign about Josh Romney's role in REDCO, Davies phoned to say he had made a mistake.

"That was more of my wish than what actually happened," Ryan Davies said. "Josh had no role in REDCO. I shouldn't have said that he did."

A few shaky branches on the family tree is nothing new in presidential politics. Bill Clinton's brothers-in-law contributed a stream of unflattering headlines during his tenure, and Neil Bush, Billy Carter and Donald Nixon all found notoriety when their brothers moved into the White House.

ABC News attempted to contact Roderick Davies, both at listed phone numbers and through the campaign, but was unable to reach him. ABC News spoke briefly to Ryan Davies last week as he sought to clarify Josh Romney's role in his company, but he did not respond to messages left this week to follow up.

Romney's campaign would not discuss his efforts to help his in-laws with their various business ventures, but through interviews and public records, ABC News has found ample evidence that the presidential candidate made repeated efforts to assist them, even if those efforts sometimes ended badly.

In January, The Wall Street Journal reported on Romney's push to have Bain Capital invest in an off-beat company that wanted to sell customized dolls designed to look like the children who bought them. The company, Lifelike Co., called the dolls "My Twinn." In 1996, Bain invested $2.1 million in Lifelike Co. and Romney took a seat on the company's board. Soon after, Roderick Davies was hired and became a vice president. Kenneth Thiess, former CEO of Lifelike, said in an interview that Davies told prospective suppliers that, through him, they were establishing a link to a future President of the United States.

Davies left the company in 2003 and became embroiled in a caustic legal imbroglio with the company's other managers -- with them accusing Davies of trying to steal their idea and start a rival doll company. The case was suspended when Lifelike declared bankruptcy in 2004.

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