Skip to main content

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the press following his meetings at 10 Downing Street in London, July 26, 2012. U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's high-profile overseas trip got off to a rocky start on Thursd
MoveOn has sent a letter to the Public Integrity Division of the United State Department of Justice urging it to investigate whether Mitt Romney committed a felony by violating the False Statements Act when he claimed, on his personal financial disclosure form filed in 2011, that he was “not involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way” after February 12, 1999. The letter was accompanied by detailed legal analysis backing up its allegations, and its author, Joseph Sandler, is no slouch, having served as general counsel to the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Governors Association, among others. I interviewed Sandler via email on Friday, and he has agreed to answer questions in the Comments. Here's what we discussed:

Q: What is the False Statements Act?

Sandler: The False Statements Act is a law that makes it a federal criminal offense—a felony—to knowingly make any false statement to any U.S. Government agency. It is applied in a wide variety of situations, including making false statements to federal law enforcement agents; making false statements on any kind of government form (grant, loan or assistance application, etc.); putting false information on reports required to be filed with any U.S. Government agency, etc. Even when a document you submit to a US Government agency doesn't have to be notarized or under oath, this law still makes it a crime to put any false information on that document—as long as the person who filled out the form knew the information was false, the information was relevant to the agency's operation and within its jurisdiction.

Q: Romney is accused of making false statements on his Public Financial Disclosure Form. What’s the importance of this form, and what sorts of things was Romney required to disclose?

Sandler: The form Romney was required to fill out is the Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Report. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978—one of the reform laws passed after the Watergate scandal—requires this form to be filled out by candidates for President and Vice President; presidential nominees to Executive Branch positions requiring Senate confirmation; the incumbent President and Vice President; most of the White House staff; all federal employees appointed by the President; and most very senior federal officials in the Civil Service and special Government employees, and certain other federal officials. The purpose of the form is to disclose personal financial interests—income received, assets held, debts—so that the public (and for incumbent officials, federal ethics officers) can determine whether there may be a conflict of interest on the part of the federal official.

In the case of a candidate for President, the purpose of the form is to let the electorate know from what companies, firms and organizations the candidate has been receiving money (earned income, speaking fees, dividends, interest, etc); and in what companies the candidate owns stock and other interests. The form is very important because it's the only way voters can learn about a candidate's personal financial interests that may influence or shape his positions and policies.

A presidential candidate such as Gov. Romney is required to disclose, generally for the year of filing and the calendar year before, amounts and sources of earned income; all assets held (stocks, bonds, real estate, business interests, retirement funds, trusts, etc), the value of each asset and the amount of income earned from the asset during the reporting period.

Q: And what he didn’t disclose was his ongoing relationship with Bain Capital after his purported separation. Are prosecutions common for this type of offense?

The issue is whether Gov. Romney affirmatively misrepresented his role with Bain Capital after his purported separation. On the form, Gov Romney (and related reporting entities including his Blind Trust, his IRA his wife's blind trust etc) reported investments in dozens of funds, including many privately held Bain Capital funds, worth tens of millions of dollars. On his form, Gov Romney explains that these investments were made pursuant to his retirement agreement with Bain Capital and that all of the investments are "passive" in nature, implying Gov. Romney didn't do anything at Bain to earn any income from any of these investments. To support that assertion, and in an obvious effort to distance himself from Bain's business after his purported departure, Gov Romney makes the categorical statement that, "Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way."  

It is well-established that making a false statement on an Executive Branch Personal Financial Disclosure Form is a violation of the False Statements Act. The Department of Justice makes clear in section 902 of its Criminal Resource Manual that making a false statement on the form is a prosecutable offense. Members of Congress and Executive Branch officials have been prosecuted for making false statements on their financial disclosure forms.

Who are some of the people who have been prosecuted?

Sandler: Among those prosecuted have been former US Rep Mary Rose Oakar (but let off because the statute didn't apply to the legislative branch at that time—has since been amended); former chief of staff to US Secretary of Agriculture, Ron Blackley; and for lying on a related disclosure form during vetting for a cabinet post, former US Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Henry Cisneros.

So the complaint has been filed. What happens next?

Sandler: We expect that the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department, which is a group of non-partisan career professionals, will look at the facts carefully and decide whether the questions raised warrant further investigation.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

GainesT1958, Thumb, Sylv, RF, Bill in Portland Maine, Chi, grollen, Timaeus, krwada, Wintermute, billlaurelMD, hyperstation, shayera, OLinda, keepiru, hubcap, Creosote, dweb8231, Zinman, CoolOnion, gayntom, jalbert, PeteZerria, ctsteve, RLF, ninothemindboggler, psnyder, Nag, hangingchad, annan, Eyesbright, JimWilson, wdrath, rlharry, Sophie Amrain, lyvwyr101, Emmy, eve, tovan, maybeeso in michigan, RaveON, LarisaW, stlawrence, YucatanMan, PSzymeczek, SaraBeth, where4art, skyounkin, blue jersey mom, kaliope, spunhard, Shotput8, DFJtoo, Unduna, DaveVH, berning, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, myboo, Gorette, Dvalkure, AoT, pengiep, luckydog, TalkieToaster, erratic, gpoutney, FatPath, unclebucky, CF Perez, ER Doc, AllDemsOnBoard, justiceputnam, BlueMississippi, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, BB10, Bernie68, anna shane, Sapere aude, Cronesense, dclawyer06, deepeco, klnb1019, carpunder, Librarianmom, pioneer111, Wreck Smurfy, vet, Empower Ink, CroneWit, adrianrf, davidseth, OleHippieChick, Old Lefty, Sharon Wraight, Lujane, royce, Troubadour, Mayfly, shortgirl, WakeUpNeo, TheOpinionGuy, politicalceci, stevenwag, Tortmaster, Just Bob, brentbent, confitesprit, eXtina, politik, Crabby Abbey, RJP9999, womankind, Monkey Man Hermit, loveistheanswer, ItsSimpleSimon, laserhaas, rja, MsGrin, cocinero, soaglow, Actbriniel, Jane Lew, redlum jak, ozsea1, stone clearing, vahana, Alice Olson, tbutt, corvaire, chira2, Jamie Sanderson, blue aardvark, SteelerGrrl, VeloVixen, Catlady62, zenox, weinerschnauzer, thejoshuablog, Mentatmark, Auriandra, ParkRanger, jacey, stormicats, gnostradamus, OldDragon, Heart n Mind, Ozark Homesteader, a2nite, 2thanks, sgnola, edebs, mapamp, MartyM, Buckeye54, cassandracarolina, james321, jim in IA, Glen The Plumber, Marjmar, Most Awesome Nana, Candide08, DamselleFly, Eric Twocents, Late Again, jps1, paccoli, howabout, Constantly Amazed, Grandson named me Papa, pragmaticidealist, bontemps2012, JustGiaco, pipercity1, NMGladiator, OregonWetDog, CwV

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site