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. Sandy

    "Low Blow" doesn't mean "false".

    August 10, 2012 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  2. Lisa P

    Just because it's "technically legal" doesn't mean it's right. Neither is "But everybody was doing it!" the kind of thing I would want to hear from someone who wants to be elected President of our great nation. Romney needs to come clean, and if he doesn't have the backbone to do that then maybe the Republicans need to look for another candidate. Say what you will about Obama, he's willing to admit, apologize for, and learn from his mistakes. Obama's a real man, a mensch, for all his faults; at the moment Romney is looking more and more like a mannequin, fake as a plaster saint.

    August 10, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  3. Green Collar Worker

    What's good for the goose is good for the gander and if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    August 10, 2012 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  4. BJ

    Factcheck.org and CNN used to be credible...no more. Facebook and Twitter are more credible.

    August 10, 2012 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  5. skywatcher888

    Too bad FactCheck.org has absolutely NO credibility.

    How is it possible that Mitt Romney, CHAIRMAN OF THE AUDITING COMMITTEE for Marriott bears no responsibility for taking the Son of Boss writeoffs that are CLEARLY and PATENTLY fraudulent from ANY MORAL point of view?

    Oh yeah, they're the same bozos that said the Ryan budget doesn't destroy Medicare as we know it.

    August 10, 2012 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  6. California Gary

    Unless Romney, in his position on the Board with Marriott argued against using this "tax avoidance" process, the ad is perfectly fair. It goes to his character.......and Romney brought "character" into the debate earlier with his own ad.

    August 10, 2012 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  7. nmmell08

    Obama quoted an Op-Ed...I think the ad was misleading...but Idk if its not completey true

    August 10, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  8. Jules

    He was on the board of directors when this happened is what I get out of it. So did he have something to do with approving the scheme. I don't think this is a very clear article. It says he didn't benefit, but am wondering how anyone knows that – because he didn't go to jail like the others? Is the op-ed the ad is based on accurate?

    August 10, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  9. WiredweirdinSF

    Another Obama promise not kept? Gee, what a surprise.

    Also did you hear about the corrupt democrat liberal party, pushing amendments to exempt unions and the memberships from new stalking laws. No doubt which corrupt bunch runs which corrupt bunct and that is how we end up with the most corrupt, inept, incompetent president in history. He is their guy.

    August 10, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  10. Jules

    Maybe the Romney campaign should try using factual ads instead of lying about everything – right now it looks like the Obama campaign is going to give as good as they get and why shouldn't they? Every negative ad put out by Romney is a flat out lie or a distortion.

    August 10, 2012 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  11. Tubby the Tuba Texasc

    Fact check doesn't mention that Mitt the Twit was hired because of his knowledge in taxing. Knowing it was wrong did not stop Romney from approving and oking the move. It goes to his ethics as a professional and as an American. He isn't paying his shares of taxes because he has millions of his dollars hidden in foreign countries, and he is drawing interest off the money while it is there. Americans have been raped by big businesses not paying their taxes depleting the revenue of our government.

    August 10, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  12. rla

    i know evrything that Obama does is someone elses fault ??? RIGHT??? Sorry but the fact are piling up that this administration is corrupt and nasty to the core!'

    August 10, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  13. Has Mittens "RETROACTIVELY RETIRED" as the GOVERNOR of MA back to before he signed ROMNEYCARE???

    "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

    Uh, not if they have an IQ higher than a #2 pencil, the ad never states Marriott is the ONLY company that took advantage of the tax shelter, however, it does truthfully point out Mittens gusto for peddling said tax shelters,

    August 10, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  14. HenryB

    Hahahahahaha. President Obama is taking a page out of the Republican playbook and now the Republicans cry foul. Funny how they can dish it but have a hard time taking it. Such is politics that these Republican heathens have practiced for too long.

    August 10, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. anthony76

    If "63% of Americans said Romney should release additional tax returns." and he doesn't and they vote against him, well, there must be some really bad stuff in there...

    Soooo .. WHERE are the TAX forms, Willard. Hey FactCheck.. why not give us some details on ANY of Romney's tax records (besides 2010).

    August 10, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  16. Mike A

    Fact check is calling out Romneys ad too, so yes, factcheck is credible. Just accept the fact that Obama plays dirty too... This is a pathetic ad with no credibility, why isn't it headlining on cnn??

    August 10, 2012 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  17. Annie

    Why is Osama bin Obama calling Mitt Romney Robin Hood??? Obama is the one that only wants a small percentage of us to work and is selling our futures up the road by making us bankroll those living on welfare rolls while adding more to the rolls every day and doing away with the work requirement! I know this for a fact because I work for Job and Family Services!

    August 10, 2012 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  18. Yonni

    The fact checkers need to check their facts once in a while and this is one of the time

    August 10, 2012 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  19. Montykoolaid

    Is it just me or are the reasons they are listing the ad as a "low blow" desperate and really lame?

    It was OK that he did it because lots of people did it!

    and...

    Tax avoidance is technically legal! Yes it is if you pour millions and millions into BAIN lobbyists to warp the tax code like they did with capital gains tax.

    August 10, 2012 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  20. Has Mittens "RETROACTIVELY RETIRED" as the GOVERNOR of MA back to before he signed ROMNEYCARE???

    "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 article very plainly states: "accounting firms marketed to corporations such as Marriott".

    I know my English is old school but when I learned it, a 's' on corporation meant "multiples", "many", "plural" take your pick!

    Then FactCheck goes into this line of reasoning "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"

    I am beginning to question the folks at FactCheck.org's objectivity!

    August 10, 2012 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  21. Dave, Central Illinois

    Libs will justify any lie from the grifter-in-chief.

    August 10, 2012 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  22. IrvineCAVoter

    Willard put out and ad attacking Obama with a actor looking like President Clinton stating that Obama is removing work requirement for Welfare Receipients. Not only did Willard lie but he used the former President Clinton as a pawn to discredit Obama, and Willard flat out attacked the poor welfare receipients that the Catholic Franciscian Friars had to call Willard out on his misuse of abuse on the poor. Now Willard is whining about his Bain career is being attacked? Please....Willard you called the President Obama everything that was not in the book. You Willard Romney are a terrible liar and a complaining want-to-be-President or I'll throw a temper tantrum crybaby like the GOP/Republicans. No wonder some of your own party doesn't like you.

    August 10, 2012 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  23. Pete

    sniff... looks like those Swift Boat chickens are coming home to roost.

    August 10, 2012 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  24. GeminiTwo

    Obama ran a filthy campaign against Hillary so this is nothing new – and it was the Obama's 2008 campaign that blew the lid off of how much money he raised and spent. It's odd that he complains how much money Romney is spending. Unfortunately he is not getting the donations he got 4 years ago. He is the most arrogant, narcissistic ever to hold this office, I doubt the IRS would let Romney get away without paying taxes and I'm sure the "FOO" friend of Obama, Mr Warren Buffet has taken advantage of every tax deduction the law allows. Stupid naive people – change the tax code and it will all work out.

    August 10, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  25. A not-so-stupid former republican

    Kind of like the pot calling the kettle black. Suck it up you republican whiner!

    August 10, 2012 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
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