Senator Harry Reid doesn’t seem to think much of the Huffington Post. Ready with an unsubstantiated rumor to spread about Mitt Romney’s taxes, Reid went to the HuffPo, assuming he was on friendly ground, free of fact-checkers. That’s really the only explanation for why he thought he could get these outlandish allegations against Mitt Romney into print:
In a wide-ranging interview with the Huffington Post from his office on Capitol Hill, Reid saved some of his toughest words for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Romney couldn’t make it through a Senate confirmation process as a mere Cabinet nominee, the majority leader insisted, owing to the opaqueness of his personal finances. …
Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.
“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.
“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”
HuffPo notes that Reid’s office wouldn’t provide the name of the investor who “told” him about Romney’s alleged 10-year tax vacation. Hmm. For a reporter, wouldn’t that normally be a gigantic, flashing warning sign that you are probably about to be played? Let’s walk through this again: Reid says he spoke to a Bain investor on the phone who handed him this bombshell. He brings it up during a conversation with reporters. And yet he doesn’t provide the guy’s name so the journalists can go take a closer look at the story? What? Why not?
Reid has a personal and political interest in helping Obama get reelected. If he really received information about Romney dodging taxes from a source he trusted, why on earth would he go to HuffPo to cryptically recount this story second-hand rather than give them the name of the investor who supposedly knows about it and have the reporters nail it to the wall?
At Fortune, Dan Primack destroys any shred of doubt Reid’s story is pure fantasy:
One of two things has happened: (1) Reid is simply making the whole thing up, in order to pressure Romney into releasing tax returns for years prior to 2010, or (2) Reid’s investor pal lied, and the senator didn’t bother to conduct even a mild vetting before sharing the accusation with reporters. Either way, shame on gossipy gentleman from Nevada.
Let me make this crystal clear: Investors in private equity funds do not receive, nor are they entitled to request, personal tax returns for fund managers. Not just at Bain Capital, but everywhere. For example, ask the person managing your 401(k) for their personal tax returns. See how far you get. …
A Reid spokesman defended his boss to me on the phone, only saying that I’d have to talk to Reid’s original source. But of course he wouldn’t provide the source, or even ask Reid if there had been a follow-up like “How the hell would you know that?”
Whatever the truth about Romney’s tax history, we know that Reid’s “source” is full of it.
Unless Reid comes clean about his source or provides some more information, journalists should stop reporting this as if it’s anything more than an unsubstantiated and highly dubious smear from a Romney opponent.