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Thursday's revelations in the Boston Globe that Mitt Romney did not in fact leave Bain Capital in February 1999 have put the GOP standard bearer in hot water. At best, the contention if true would mean Romney lied to the American people to avoid paternity for job-killing deals that nevertheless lined his own pockets. At worst, the Republican nominee flouted SEC rules and broke the law.

But largely overlooked in the discussion of departure date as Bain Capital CEO is why Mitt Romney used to claim he was only on leave between 1999 and 2002. If Romney really permanently left Bain in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, he might have been ineligible to run for governor of Massachusetts.

As the Globe noted in its story, "financial disclosure documents Romney filed in Massachusetts show that he was paid as a Bain Capital executive while he directed the Olympics." But it is the last sentence in the article which may be the most important:

In Romney's 2002 race for governor, he testified before the state Ballot Law Commission that his separation from Bain in 1999 had been a "leave of absence" and not a final departure.
And why was Mitt Romney testifying before the Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission? Because, it turns out, for three years he paid property taxes to Utah while claiming his $3.8 million Park City mansion was his "primary residence." And unless he could convince the Commission that was a mistake and that his tony Belmont estate was still home, Bain Capital CEO Romney would never have become Governor Romney.

Continue reading below the fold.

As the AP reported in June 2002:

Mitt Romney the former Salt Lake City Olympics chief now running for Massachusetts governor paid property taxes on a Utah home as his "primary residence" between 1999 and 2001 and received a $54,600 tax discount as a result.

The distinction which Utah officials said was made in error fueled the debate about whether Romney meets Massachusetts' residential requirements to be governor. The state Constitution requires a candidate to live in Massachusetts for seven years prior to election.

And as the Boston Globe explained that same month:
At the center of the case were Massachusetts tax returns Romney filed while in Utah. Romney filed in 1999 as a part-year Massachusetts resident and in 2000 as a nonresident.

Romney changed those returns to Massachusetts resident in April, after deciding to run for governor, saying his longtime tax advisers at Pricewaterhouse Coopers had made a mistake.

For his part, Romney answered the question "Where have I been the last three years?" by claiming "It was serving the people of our country in a responsibility I was given." Besides, the AP reported, "the [Utah] home was in his wife Ann's name and she paid the tax bills." On June 25, 2002, the Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission consisting of three Republicans, one Democrat and one independent rejected a Democratic challenge to Romney's eligibility and concluded that Romney "was credible in all respects regarding the fact that (he) intended Massachusetts to be his domicile from 1971 to the present."

Romney's credibility may have been helped by his claims that between 1999 and 2001 he was on "a leave of absence" from Boston-based Bain Capital. That would square with reporting from David Corn of Mother Jones, who explained last week that:

In 1999, Bain and Romney both described his departure from Bain not as a resignation and far from absolute. The Boston Herald on February 12, 1999 reported, "Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions." And a Bain press release issued on July 19, 1999, noted that Romney was "currently on a part-time leave of absence"--and quoted Romney speaking for Bain Capital.
But what was helpful to Mitt Romney in 2002 is major headache now.

Because at a minimum that would mean the Romney campaign was misleading the American people when it denied that Mitt profited when Bain Capital invested in companies that shipped jobs overseas, extracted massive dividends and fees from firms that later failed and even harvested cash from human fetuses and other medical waste. All of that, Team Romney claims, happened "after Mitt left Bain."

But if even if that's true (and there is growing evidence to suggest it isn't), then Mitt Romney may never have become governor of Massachusetts. Either way, he should never become the president of the United States.

UPDATE: Commenters PAbluestater and lysias noted some other interesting angles on this mushrooming story. The Salt Lake City Deseret News reported on August 20, 2001 that “Mitt Romney won't return to the business world after the 2002 Winter Games but instead will pursue public service,” adding that, “he would not return to the venture capital firm as originally planned.” Meanwhile, despite his statement that “I like Voter ID laws by the way,” Romney ran into vote fraud charges of his own during his second residency crisis in 2010. After the Belmont Town Clerk verified Mitt was still a registered voter in her town his despite temporarily using his son’s basement as his address of record, the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office concluded in June 2011, “there will be no investigation.”

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 12:54 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Bain Files and Daily Kos.

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