Underscoring the prominent, if little discussed role that Mitt Romney played as a Mormon leader, the private equity giant once run by the GOP presidential frontrunner carved his church a slice of several of its most lucrative business deals, securities records show, providing it with millions of dollars worth of stock in some of Bain Capital's most well-known holdings.
Romney has always been a major donor to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which requires that members "tithe," or give 10 percent of their income to the church. His family charity, called the Tyler Foundation, has given more than $4 million to the church in the past five years, including $1.8 million in 2008 and $600,000 in 2009. But because Romney, whose fortune has been estimated at $250 million, has never released his personal tax returns, the full extent of his giving has never been public.
Newly uncovered stock contributions made during Romney's Bain days suggest there is another dimension to Romney's support for the church -- one that could involve millions more than has been previously disclosed.
As part of just one Bain transaction in 2008, involving its investment in Burger King Holdings, filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveal that an unnamed Bain partner donated 65,326 shares of Burger King stock to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holdings then worth nearly $1.9 million. And there were numerous others, giving the church a stake in other Bain properties, such as Domino's Pizza, the electronics manufacturer DDi, the phosphates company Innophos Holdings, and Marquee Holdings, the parent to AMC Theaters.
The Republican presidential candidate's campaign staff confirmed that some of the stock transactions were at Romney's direction, but they would not say which ones.
"Mitt Romney has publicly stated that he regularly tithes to his church," said Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman, when asked about the Bain contributions. "Some of those church contributions have come through the Tyler Foundation. Others have been donations of stock through Bain. Any shares donated by Mitt Romney are personal shares owned by him."
Saul also noted that not all the shares that appear on Bain securities filings can be attributed to Romney, "as there are other Mormon members of the firm who may also have been making donations to the church of personal shares owned by them."
Questions about Romney's faith have remained largely subdued during the 2012 campaign. Many believe he helped tame the issue during his previous campaign with a December 2007 speech at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, during which he declared that his church would not dictate his actions in the White House, if he was to become President.
"I do not define my candidacy by my religion," Romney said. "A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith."
Romney said that Mormon church authority is limited to the province of church affairs, "and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin."