Leaked documents on $250m Mitt Romney fortune fuel Republican crisis


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The Independent US

The Presidential campaign of Mitt Romney was rocked again yesterday as his private wealth came under fresh and unfriendly scrutiny in the media even as Democrats continued to exploit embarrassment created by comments from a conservative congressman in Missouri on rape and abortion.

The publication by the website Gawker of some 950 pages of documents offering glimpses into Mr Romney's web of holdings, some in overseas territories like Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands, was a reminder of the candidate's reticence fully to describe a fortune estimated at $250m and the taxes he pays on his income. The papers, some of which have been seen before, included letters and audits.

They are likely to fuel demands by Democrats that Mr Romney release tax filings far beyond the two years worth (one provisional) that he has made public so far. Some of what the papers detail also appears to cast fresh doubt on claims he has made that he left Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded, in 1999 before it embarked on a firm-shuttering spree that cost thousands of American jobs.

The Romney campaign is still straining meanwhile to contain the abortion controversy created when Todd Akin, a conservative Missouri representative now running for the US Senate, told an interviewer that in cases of "legitimate rape", a woman's body can "shut that whole thing down" to avoid pregnancy.

President Barack Obama weighed in during a fundraiser in New York late Wednesday. "The interesting thing here is that this is an individual who sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology but somehow missed science class," the President said. "But it's representative of a desire to go backwards instead of forwards. And fights that we thought were settled 20, 30 years ago."

Mr Akin's words continue to dominate conversation because his staunch anti-abortion stance, however clumsily expressed, has the support of the Tea Party rump of the party. Moreover, he and Paul Ryan, the number two on the ticket, have in the past co-sponsored legislation to restrict abortion rights. The furore has so far been a gift to Democrats who were already trying to paint Mr Romney as the leader of a party that is deaf to women's reproductive rights and to their interests in general. Most polls show Mr Obama with a double-digit lead over Mr Romney among women voters.

Already, the roll-out of Mr Ryan as the vice presidential nominee has been marred because of his voting record of siding with those Republicans on Capitol Hill who are looking to narrow abortion rights even to the point of not making exceptions in cases of rape or of incest. This week he has found himself obliged to distance himself from those positions and to embrace Mr Romney's more moderate stance.

"I'm proud of my pro-life record," he told reporters in the Midwest. "And I stand by my pro-life record. It's something I'm proud of. But Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket, and Mitt Romney will be President and he will set the policy of the Romney administration."

Isaac angst: Will it rain on the parade?

Organisers of the Republican Party convention are nervously watching Tropical Storm Isaac, which will move northeast through the Caribbean today on a track that could take it to the host city of Tampa right on cue for Monday's kick-off of the proceedings. Forecasters said Isaac had all the signs of strengthening into a hurricane as early as today. The convention site is a hockey arena in Tampa and officials say they will consider postponement or even relocation if they have to. A full evacuation of the area would create chaos and leave best-laid plans to burnish Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan in tatters.