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. The Prince of Common Cents

    Dear Mitt Romney: "Show me the money!"

    August 10, 2012 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  2. n

    Romney name is associated with many unscrupulous and dirty deals that would call his character and patriotism into question and yet, he, Romney seem to be oblivious to these things that are taking place right before his eyes. A leader that sees nothing and yet claim to know everything. And the "Establishment" as it were, are forever trying to hold Romney up because he will never be able to stand on his own. Obama is just too smart and savvy for Romney to take on by himself. :)

    August 10, 2012 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  3. Doreen Johnson

    Boo Hoo

    August 10, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  4. ron

    LOL. Mitwit doesn't care about truthful adds....

    August 10, 2012 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  5. Hawk in Texas

    If a person is on the board of directors of a company and that company does illegal things. that person has to know about it. but again mitt probably left the company retroactively. about two years after it happened. like his wife ann said he wouldn't release anymore tax filings because there are things in the returns that the democrats could use against him. those thing are probably McCain chose palin instead of romney for veep.

    August 10, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  6. ptny

    Yeah...well here is how I see it. Romney touts CEO...CEO...
    "I have been very successful in my life, I'm not going to apologize for it!"

    August 10, 2012 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  7. ptny

    I don't think Romney will be MY BOSS!

    August 10, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  8. Jersey Girl

    Another reason ol' Willard won't release his records is that he is very much involved in personal tax avoidance schemes. This guy is pretty remarkable. And not in a good way. I am sure that after he LOSES the election, a coffee-table-sized book will come out about his many tax avoidance schemes, personal and business...I would buy that book!

    August 10, 2012 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  9. wangfeihong

    Hey you know what? I have been reading all the news, blogs, etc. The simple truth is that the mormons/pagans are trying to take over america. It's as simple as that how come everybody else doesn't see that?

    August 10, 2012 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  10. Ivan Bial

    Just think about this:
    After vetting Mr. Romney and reviewing his tax returns, John McCain decided Sara Palin was a better V.P. candidate.
    Let me say that again John McCain decided Sara Palin was a better V.P. candidate then Mitt Romney.
    Need anyone say more..

    August 10, 2012 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  11. skannercon

    Factcheck.com is notoriously NOT an independent fact-checking organization. They are a conservative-based damage-control outfit whose sole mission is to undo the damage when someone gets the goods on a Republican or conservative candidate or cause.

    August 10, 2012 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  12. redleg56

    We already know from Mitt himself that his signature as CEO or director on SEC filings is "retroactively resigned" - in other words he admits that he is a liar. What character does he have left to redeem or defend? This is a man who beleives that contributing more that the minimum to America disqualifies you as President. I do not agree with McCain on a lot of things but Mitt apparently considers volunteering either money or blood to be wrong. Who needs this gutless wonder?

    August 10, 2012 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  13. BeverlyNC

    I don't trust Romney and ALL his ads are false and complete lies. Where is Fact Check on the Romney ads where he just makes up things that never happened? Romney is not a leader, has no principles, still has not told us what he stands FOR, how, in detail, he will create jobs and restore the economy better than President Obama has, or how he plans to handle foreign policy when he alienated the British PM and the British people in less than 24 hours, enraged the Israelis and made a fool of himself in Poland. The Catholic Church has come out against his likely VP Paul Ryan and his budget, calling it "immoral" and "against the teachings of Jesus". I guess that doesn't matter to Romney since he is a Mormon and not a Christian. Joseph Smith is the head of his religion while Jesus is the head of Chrsitian churches. Have all these evangelicals thought about how Romney would take his oath on the "Book of Mormon" and not the Bible? Are they ready to give up Medicare, Social Security, healthcare, public education, all programs for the poor but increasing corporate "welfare" with our taxpayer dollars? We pay more taxes while corporations and the rich like Romney pay none? Better check your facts on who Romney really is before you let bigotry blind you to what all you will lose if Romney wins. I stand with President Obama – a proven leader and strong advocate for We the People.

    August 10, 2012 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  14. FlotsamJetsam

    I saw the ad. Fundamentally the ad gets it right. Marriott used the Son of Boss tax shelter which was later found to be illegal in an IRS tax case. Marriott had to pay back a significant amount of money. and yes Romney headed up the tax oversight committee for Marriott. Yes there were others that did it and probably avoided even more taxes than Marriott got away with. Minor details but fact check is splitting hairs.

    August 10, 2012 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  15. rmatten

    If Romney was involved in the Son of Boss tax avoidance scam that would explain his reluctance in disclosing any more tax returns.

    August 10, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  16. Lola

    I say release the president's transcripts from Columbia and Harvard the same time Romney releases his tax records. Then we can call this even.

    August 10, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  17. reaperfearer

    Obama showed his birth certificate. Romney can show his taxes. Until he does, the guesses as to why he doesn't will only get crazier. Romney has the power to stop this. It's interesting that he doesn't.

    August 10, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  18. Becky

    From my reading of the facts of the case, the ad is "misleading" in that it doesn't give enough info. But in a 30 second ad it's impossible to mention every fact in the case. So Marriott wasn't the only company doing it ,it. So what? All we care about is Romney's portion of the dirty deed. If he did his part in the scheme, the ad is fine.

    August 10, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  19. Ned Noodleman

    How odd. FactCheck isn't disputing the factual accuracy. They are quibbling that it was not pointed out Romney wasn't the only shyster. You'd think Factcheck would avoid dissembling at the level of a 3 year old caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

    August 10, 2012 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  20. Really?

    Wow, you liberals are STILL defending Obama? I guess you do actually kind of "work" for those government handouts you get!

    August 10, 2012 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  21. Jake

    So just because Romney's not alone in using this tactic makes the ad wrong? He clearly finds it acceptable in his view, which I feel is not where most citizens find their own beliefs. OK so it's 100% legal, but that's the whole point isn't it? It shouldn't be legal. His returns are likely full of these legal financial gymnastics–doesn't make it right. If Romney is claiming as a defense that his nominal effective tax rate for his bazillions of dollars, created through offshore shelters and murky paper-only corporations, is "just following the rules," then clearly the system needs to be fixed and that is exactly what Obama wants to do.

    August 10, 2012 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  22. Hawkeye-SC

    Obungholio proves daily just what a piece of whale scat he is. This clown has got to go.

    August 10, 2012 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  23. gwats1957

    Romney did back this up, and drew fire from the IRS. This is WHO he is, THIS is how he rolls.

    August 10, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  24. PRussell

    So the scheme did occur and Marriott was involved and Romney was on the board at that time, right? And a lot of millionaires and corporations took advantage of the tax avoidance that was legal, right? OK we get it Romney was on the scene on paper, but not really there, again; and we should all ignore all of this cause its misleading. Ok I say where are the tax returns so we can find out what happened and who is Mitt Romney?

    August 10, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  25. patmcguinness

    Obama campaign keeps stooping to new lows. They are falsely accusing Romney of everything... slander after slander.
    - Romney was a "liar or a felon" based on a nutty conspiracy claim that is contrary to actual SEC filings
    - Ad about 'I lost health insurance and then my wife died' then we find out a) he had a new job and CHOSE not to put her on insurance and b) she died 5 years after he was employed at the steel company. oh, and Bain offered him a buyout but he refused... geeez.
    - now this. It's not Romney's taxes. It's not his companies taxes. it's nothing to do with him or that he had anything to do with. They just make up some tenuous connection and throw out a phony claim. WOW. HOW LOW WILL OBAMA GO.

    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 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
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