Mitt Romney says he paid exactly what federal tax laws require, but it's hard not to notice the documents check all the boxes of a cartoon version of a Wall Street villain: Swiss bank accounts, funds in the Cayman Islands, and, The New York Times reports, original IPO shares in Goldman Sachs. Sifting through the 500 pages of tax documents (you wouldn't expect someone plotting to take over the world to file a 1040EZ) Kevin Roose finds that the Romneys were some of the lucky few who were able to buy Goldman shares when the firm went public in 1999. "Ordinary investors would not have been able to snag Goldman's I.P.O. shares -- they were reserved for the firm's most important clients -- which makes them the Wall Street equivalent of a Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card," he writes. Romney's trust bought 1,000 shares at $53 each and sold them in December 2010 for $161.44 each.
Roose notes the sale was good timing -- it waited through the shares' low during the financial crisis, when they were worth less than $50, and sold them before another dip. Another bit of good timing is that the shares in the unpopular firm were sold right before Romney started campaigning hard for president. The tax returns also show Ann Romney paid $20,603 for servants' salaries in 2010, the Times' Floyd Norris reports. The speaking fees Romney described as "not that much" last week? They made him $528,871 in 2010. And this year, somebody somewhere paid $110,500, even though, as Slate's David Plotz points out, Romney was running for president. You could hear him speak for free just about any day of the week.
There's a bit of a voyeuristic thrill in sifting through rich people's taxes -- not as good as snooping in their medicine cabinet or underwear drawer, but lots of fun nonetheless. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes, "Romney had a Swiss bank account. Yes, it was closed in 2010 but the very idea of a Swiss bank account reeks of 'otherness.'" Speaking of fake Americans, The Post's Brad Plumer ranks Romney's tax rate as second lowest among recent presidential candidates. Who paid less? Man of the people John Kerry. Plumer points out that in 2003, Kerry paid a 13.1 percent rate because his return is lumped in with his super-rich wife, who made a lot of money from investments. "On his own, Kerry paid 22.9 percent in federal taxes in 2003 on his $395,338 salary, which included Senate income plus the sale of a 17th-century Dutch painting." Don't forget, guys: Kerry was the last "electable" candidate who didn't quite satisfy the base.