FactCheck.org calls 'low blow' new Obama 'Son of Boss' attack ad
August 10th, 2012
05:35 PM ET
2 years ago

FactCheck.org calls 'low blow' new Obama 'Son of Boss' attack ad

(CNN) – An independent fact-checking group, FactCheck.org, claimed Friday that a new Obama campaign ad attacking Mitt Romney over a tax avoidance scandal is "badly misleading."

"The Obama campaign strikes another low blow with a TV spot accusing Mitt Romney of 'personally' approving a notoriously abusive tax-avoidance scheme and suggesting he may have paid 'zero' tax," the FactCheck.org article states. "That's badly misleading."

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The spot, released Thursday by the president's re-election campaign, points to an op-ed by two tax experts who claim Romney was involved with the reporting of a $70 million fictional tax loss when he served on the board of Marriott International from 1993 to 1998.

"During that period, Marriott engaged in a series of complex and high-profile maneuvers, including 'Son of Boss,' a notoriously abusive prepackaged tax shelter that investment banks and accounting firms marketed to corporations such as Marriott," states the op-ed, which was published this week on CNN.com.

The authors –Peter C. Canellos, former chair of the New York State Bar Association Tax Section, and Edward D. Kleinbard, former chief of staff of Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation–wrote that the "Son of Boss" tax shelter marked "perhaps the largest tax avoidance scheme in history" and cost the U.S. "billions in lost corporate tax revenues."

While Romney did not face criminal charges, unlike others linked to the scandal, the authors wrote "his endorsement of this stratagem provides insight into Romney's professional ethics and attitude toward tax compliance obligations."

But FactCheck.org said Friday that Marriott wasn't the only company involved in the "Son of Boss" scheme.

"Viewers (of the ad) may get the mistaken impression that Romney – actually Marriott – is solely to blame for 'one of the largest tax avoidance schemes in history.' Not true. It was a strategy used by many taxpayers that resulted in billions in lost revenue," the article states.

The Obama ad also doesn't give context about Marriott, FactCheck said, and leads the viewer to believe it was Romney who personally handled the deal.

"The tax scheme didn't benefit Romney, and the fictional losses were not his," FactCheck says. "The company involved was Marriott Corp, not Romney or Bain Capital. But the ad gives no hint of this."

Furthermore, the website states that the term "tax avoidance" is technically legal, a distinction not easily communicated in the new spot.

"Combining 'avoidance' with loaded terms like 'scheme' and 'notorious' and 'scandal' and 'fictional losses' further suggests possible tax fraud, but there's no evidence Romney broke any law," the article states.

The spot comes at a time when top Democrats and Obama's campaign have actively worked to raise suspicion about Romney's tax history. They've unleashed a flood of calls urging the presumptive GOP nominee to release more tax returns as a way to answer questions about his financial portfolio.

The Republican candidate, whose estimated worth is valued up to $256 million, has made public his tax return for 2010 and an estimate for 2011, with a pledge to release the full year once the documents are complete. He filed an extension for October.

While Romney says he will not release further taxes than what he has already made public, a majority of Americans disagree with his decision. According to a CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday, 63% of Americans said Romney should release additional tax returns.


Filed under: 2012 • Ads • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. HenryMiller

    The vicious, vindictive, character of the Left at work...

    August 11, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  2. Obama Lied Jobs died

    Obama campaign keeps stooping to new lows.
    Obama has exposed himself as a liar with a campaign that will say anything to win. Obama's desperation means he knows he'll lose.

    August 11, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  3. prairieson

    This pathetic excuse for a president gets more deperate everyday

    August 11, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  4. enuff

    Was he or he not on the board of directors of Marriott when this happened? was Romney on the audit committee? Or is this another "retroactive" resignation? CNN needs to ask the harder questions themselves rather than just reporting on what one lame organization "thinks". Give us the facts.

    August 11, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  5. Thomas

    A look at why the Cayman Islands has been called a tax haven, how the ... Cayman's bank privacy laws and the lack of income taxes attract not only Mitt Romney and Dick Cheney and the President of Nigeria .

    August 11, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  6. Just another watcher

    Funny that CNN is actually concerned with facts. Where was CNN's fact-checking in the lead up to the Iraq War? Oh, how I miss the real journalists CNN used to have, such as Bernard Shaw and Mike Chinoy. The current crop of talking heads on that channel cannot hold a candle to those guys.

    August 11, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  7. Montanajay

    I'm a Democrat who cringes every time he sees Romney on TV or hears his voice, but I completely disagree with Vic's take on FactCheck.org. Obama ads, just like Romney ads, should be vetted and rated, and that is what FactCheck.org is doing. Check the site and you'll see many entries on Romney lies, exaggerations and distortions.

    August 11, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  8. Alex in Wisconsin

    I want to feel bad for Romney but... somehow, the way he lies constantly just doesn't make me feel pity. Bu
    t i do expect the Obama Team to be alittle more honest than Romney if he wants my vote.

    August 11, 2012 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  9. Two Puppets

    highly misleading but not a pants on fire? So in other words, factcheck couldn't find anything about the claim that is false, but they also couldn't verify it being true. I think they just mean to say that no charges were filed.

    August 11, 2012 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  10. Steve Jennings

    The facts listed seem to fall right in line with everything else being slowly revealed by the Romney crew. Just because it isn't pubicly known doesn't mean it's misleading. This guy wrote of tens of thousands of dollars by listing their horse as a business...

    August 11, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  11. megamimi

    And now, lets see if this gets the national legs it should.

    August 11, 2012 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
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