Mitt Romney's Blind Trust Not So Blind


But some experts have questioned whether someone with Malt's close ties to Romney could oversee the candidate's finances with true independence. In addition to serving as the trustee for Romney's charitable foundation, Malt's law firm has represented Romney's interests in legal disputes, and Malt served as the primary outside counsel to Romney's company, Bain Capital. A sign of those ties surfaced in August, when Romney filed his financial disclosure report and revealed that Malt had invested over $1 million of the candidate's money in the Solamere Founders Fund. Solamere is managed by Tagg Romney, Mitt's son.

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Cleta Mitchell, a Washington, D.C. election lawyer who has done legal work for Rick Santorum's campaign, said it would be hard to explain how Romney's independent investment fund would orchestrate a $1 million investment with his son's firm without violating the terms of a standard blind trust -- terms that typically prohibit communication with family members.

"What you're saying to the government is, I don't have any control over this, my spouse doesn't, and neither do my dependent children," Mitchell said. "The filer says, 'I don't know what's in it. I just get income from it.'"

Said one prominent campaign lawyer who has advised past Republican presidential candidates on these matters: "I don't see how this would provide the required trustee independence under the executive branch blind trust requirements."

Said another: "At the federal level, you have to have an absolute informational barrier and you're not supposed to influence anything with respect to the trust."

Neither Republican election lawyer would agree to be named, for fear of reprisals from the Romney camp.

In an email to ABC News, Romney's campaign acknowledged the arrangement does not live up to the strict standards for blind trusts established by the federal Office of Government Ethics. But the campaign was also quick to note that those rules do not apply to candidates for office -- they apply only to federal office holders.

"The blind trust does NOT meet the exacting 'federal blind trust' standard," a campaign official wrote in response to questions from ABC News. "We have never called it a federal blind trust. If Governor Romney is elected president, that will change."

Campaign officials said Romney set up the blind trust as he prepared to take office as Massachusetts governor, "so it meets different standards -- no less exacting, but different," adding that the trust was established in consultation with the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission. "Governor Romney received a written opinion from the State Ethics Commission that the blind trusts were effective," a campaign official said.

Massachusetts does not have a set standard for blind trusts, however, according to David Giannotti, an ethics commission spokesman. He said if the commission did issue an opinion to Romney giving its blessing to the governor's blind trust, it would be confidential and he could not discuss it.

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