Larry Flynt and Hustler offer $1 million bounty for Romney tax info

Mitt Romney’s personal tax history is exactly the kind of political mystery that porn mogul and free speech advocate Larry Flynt would like to uncover. So he and Hustler are offering $1 million in cash for information on the presidential candidate's “unreleased tax returns and/or details of his offshore assets, bank accounts and business partnerships” in full-page ads in USA Today and the Washington Post. “What is he hiding?” asks the ad. There's a larger scan here.


    1. Ask yourself: are those things really equivalent?

      Then ask: Are there other tit-for-tat arguments where the tit really only exists to drown out the tat?

    2. Well, except that only those most detached from reality are willing to argue that there is anything new to be learned from or about Obama’s birth certificate. On the other hand, Romney’s tax records are unreleased and very likely include information that would be informative to the public.

      So, yeah, exactly the same except in the ways that the two situations are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

    3. Leaving aside the fact that the release of one of those set of documents has been a standard part of presidential campaigns for nearly a century, and the other has never been asked for, this is still a pretty ridiculous comparison.  

      Obama released his birth certificate in 2008, during the campaign, as soon as it was asked about.  Romney hasn’t done the same with his taxes.  So no, it’s not “the same as it ever was.”

    4. Agree, totally different. But if the original poster’s point is that some people obsess over this tax issue to a greater deal than is probably warranted, I agree.  Or if the point is that even if Romney did release these tax records, it would be unlikely to satisfy the people asking for them, I also agree with that. Even if the returns turned out to be completely boring and showed only the most conservative tax minimization strategies, people would claim he was hiding something else which he didn’t release or that the records were some how fraudulent.

      1. Not quite. “Some people” are obsessing about it because finances are supposedly Rmoney’s strong suit, and it speaks directly to his character. So that’s one miss.

        If he released his records, the vast majority of those ‘obsessed’ would be completely satisfied with the info.

        Two strikes.

        1. O.k. 
          I have no way of proving one way or the other.
          I don’t think you do either, though. So I disagree with your ‘two strikes’. To expand a little bit:

          The reason I think the way I do is I suspect there aren’t any “surprises” in those returns. My guess is that they show Romney made a ton of money and legally paid little in taxes, which depending on your point of view reflects financial skill, avarice, or both. This is based on what we already know or suspect about Romney. So my guess is 

          Case A: For some reason, the returns are revealed, and I’m right. The people who are angry about Romney’s taxes will continue to complain about how little he paid in taxes, same as today. The strident ones will claim things are even worse than they appear. No satisfaction.

          Case B: the returns show Romney is not actually that good at avoiding taxes, or didn’t make as much as we think. Those who want to maintain the narrative that Romney is a greedy sneaky bastard will say the returns are fraudulent and don’t tell the whole story. No satisfaction.

          Possible there’s a third case where the returns show something illegal, but I think that’s on the bottom of the likelihood list.

          1. PS: It shouldn’t matter, but in case it colors your interpretation of what I wrote, I am NOT a Romney supporter. 

          2. I’d have to agree you got two strikes on your analysis. I personally want to know about his records as I believe the end results speaks to his character as a business and a typical rich guy hiding stuff…anyone who understand what capitalism really means knows these guys are screwing the system more then you and I ever could.

            If I was proven wrong I wouldn’t be creating more conspiracy I would say…wow I was wrong (or right). 

            PS We are all originally commenting on a guys comments who were taking from Rush Limbaugh’s talking points from the other day…no original thoughts here…just repeating what the kind b-bag says.

      2. I’m sure that there would be a few people who would be unsatisfied by any release. However, I’m not one of them and I don’t think that most people who asking for these documents are either. (I’m even willing to believe the proposition that he screwed up his taxes and paid way too much; an embarrassment for a “businessman”.)

        1. I think that it’s perfectly reasonable to require that all candidates for high office release certain significant documents, including tax returns. Given the birth requirement for the Presidency, I think that it’s reasonable to require a birth certificate even though the reason for the demands in President Obama’s case are, at best, disingenuous.

      1.  No, I came up with it on my own.

        I don’t see what the big deal is. Instead of Rich it shows he’s Mega-ass Rich? He used all the loop holes to pay the least amount possible? (Good for him, I do the same damn thing, just on a MUCH smaller scale.)

        I guess I don’t see what earth shaking skeleton could be hiding in the closet to warrant a Million dollar bounty.

        1. I don’t see what the big deal is […] He used all the loop holes to pay the least amount possible? 

          I think the “big deal” is that his tax returns are a case study in how the very wealthy in this country pay a much smaller effective tax rate than anyone else. Bringing that fact into the public spotlight might sour voters against the candidate who thinks that’s an acceptable, even admirable, state of affairs.

          1.  File under “no shit, Sherlock”. Everyone thinks the rich pay their accountants to eek out every penny they can. Blame congress and the absolutely fucked up tax code we have. Seriously – it needs to be razed in fire and rebuilt from the ground up.

          2. @Mister44:disqus First of all, Romney’s tax return should provide some evidence for how much support he’d be willing to lend to the sort of tax reform you’re talking about.  So to be consistent you should want him to disclose it as well, and if it turns out he is taking advantage of loopholes…well, again, that’s a pretty good reason to think he might not want those loopholes to close.

            Second of all, your “blame Congress” nonsense is just partisan rhetoric.  The current Congress didn’t put the tax code into effect de novo so it makes no sense to blame Congress at all.  Maybe “blame all Congresses since the advent of the income tax,” but then, Congress wasn’t solely responsible for any of that.  Presumably the people who voted for the congressmen deserve some amount of the blame, as do any special interests that might have lobbied Congress for more tax loopholes.  Finally, presidents do set agendas for legislation so the blame falls to the executive branch to a certain extent as well.

            Finally, our system of government is set up in such a way as to make repeal or retraction of laws already on the books extremely difficult.  So you can blame the framers of the constitution as well.

            Or you can stop trying to find people or groups to blame since “blaming” people or groups is actually counterproductive to solving problems. You can acknowledge reality, including the reality that disclosure of tax info is a pretty reasonable request to make of a person who’s trying to become president of the USA.

          3. @Mister44:disqus :

            Blame congress and the absolutely fucked up tax code we have.

            And do you think that a person who reaps huge benefits from that fucked up tax code is going to have much motivation to change it?

      2. Although after a really blurry night I woke up at Breitbart’s, I wouldn’t say I spent the morning.

        I put my clothes on and got the fuck out of there as quietly and quickly as possible.

  1. I don’t like stunts like this because it puts a real concern into the realm of entertainment. For a million dollars he could probably do it through the legal system.

    1. I don’t like stunts like this because it puts a real concern into the realm of entertainment.

      As opposed to Clint Eastwood yelling at a chair? What aspect of the electoral process hasn’t been turned into entertainment?

      1. It’d say the other 99% that are getting shitted on, but I guess if you are up in that 1% it is entertainment…

    2.  So you’re saying that for a million dollars Flynt could do through the legal system that which is illegal. Interesting.

    1. Considering that the assets people are most interested in are the undisclosed ones in a dozen foreign countries nested within hundreds of shells, the person most likely to disclose some information isn’t working in D.C.

      On the other hand, there are still Nazi fortunes happily frolicking in Swiss banks nearly 70 years later, so Romney probably doesn’t have to sweat it too much.

    2. Early retirement?  Nope.  It’s a jail term.

      I once had occasion to handle the tax return of a president-elect.  It had bounced out of the system in a random audit.  I literally needed to just apply a stamp to the front page and then staple a form to it.  A Special Agent with the Secret Service stood right next to me the entire time, making sure I didn’t turn past the first page of the return.  They guarded that thing like it was Pandora’s box.

      When the return went on to the next function, they stood over the woman entering the closing data to make sure she didn’t turn the page I had attached to the top (since that form included all she needed to know about the return).

      The shitstorm of sorrow that would fall on the head of any IRS employee who dared to pull the Romney return or even just a copy of the computerized summary of it would be unprecedented.  They’d be in cuffs before they could sneeze twice.

      1. Um, yeah, I’m well aware of the consequences, to say nothing of the difficulty in getting the information. But that doesn’t mean the thought hasn’t crossed someone’s mind.

      2. They’d be in cuffs before they could sneeze twice.

        Unless there were any Colombian hookers within a five-mile radius, in which case there may be serious lapses in concentration on the part of the Secret Service agents.

      3.  I’ve been saying for awhile that the fact that Mitt’s returns HAVEN’T been leaked is a testament to the integrity of the IRS.  In the controls that they have in place if not individual integrity of all employees.

  2. I love Larry Flynt!

    Brilliant man!  And while some don’t like naughty pics, his magazine kept also a thread of radical journalism that the “mass media” sold out on and gave up on.

  3. If Romney was smart he’d release them himself and donate the reward money to charity just for the positive publicity.

        1. I’m saying he has hidden assets.

          Hence the word “hidden.”

          Meaning, to be absolutely clear, “hidden.”

          “or details of his offshore assets, bank accounts and business partnerships “


          1.  Anything legal wouldn’t be hidden – the IRS knows about it when he filed. Anything hidden from the IRS would stay that way with the release of the tax info. So showing or not showing the taxes will not affect any hidden assets.

          2. If you’re hiding money from the IRS you don’t put it on your tax forms. 

            A leak of his accounting records might be more enlightening, but the IRS doesn’t have that. 

  4. From reading comments elsewhere, it’s rather amusing there are people out there that believe if there were a problem, the IRS would have handled it by now.    At least we know where we were when we first heard (Romney defenders) proclaim their faith and trust in the Internal Revenue Service.

    Parallel Universe?    You decide.

  5. I never trust an offer that includes words like “up to”  before what they’re offering. 

    It puts an upper bound but no lower bound. 

    “Yes, we said we’d offer up to $1 million… but it turns out, we’re just giving you $100.  Don’t worry, we’re keeping our word.  At least we didn’t give you a million and one dollars and lie to you!”

    1. If I had the information I’d be telling them what information I had, then I’d be negotiating a price and writing it into a contract, then and only then would I hand over the evidence.

      1.  Because getting written evidence specifying exactly what illegally obtained information you’re selling to a third party is never going to come back to bite you?

        1. “This offer is conditioned upon the person(s) submitting the materials to HUSTER* having obtained the requested material lawfully, and the right of HUSTER* to be able to publicly disclose the materials submitted.”

          I’m guessing they’re wagering that someone might be willing to lose their job for a million bucks, not go to jail.

    1. I wondered about that. But I expect the Flynt dodge to be “That anonymous source is the one who broke the law, not us. We’re just reporting it, and we refuse to identify our source.”

  6. Does someone have a handy link (preferrably Boing Boing) to a past story about Larry Flynt offering the same for other incriminating evidence surrounding government officials? Readers might want that background too. 

  7. I think what Romney is doing by not releasing his tax returns is disgusting and the public has every right to know how his financial past, but I don’t think this is the best way to get his tax information out there.

    Sadly, his refusal to release his tax records and stand by his past is his choice. Not releasing the returns is not illegal and he legally has the right to hide them from public view. 

    Instead of encouraging someone to steal Romney’s past, two things should happen: 1) voters should start petitioning that x amount of years of tax returns are legally required for anyone running for president/vice president (and we can expand it to congress as well). This issue reflects a gap in our legal system, one that we need to close. 2) Romney should either be ignored by us voters or/and shamed by the public until he releases the returns.

    I feel Romney has not made himself look like a stand up guy by trying to run and hide from his own past, but if his records are stolen (for obvious political reasons and not simply for the lulz) he will be portrayed as a victim and the democratic party will most likely shy away from using the information in any sort of political debate (and it will only add fodder to the right wing belief that all liberals are criminals).

    If we get the records in this manner our curiosity of how awesome Romney is at gaming the system is will be satisfied, but at the same time everyday that his records aren’t released is another day that reminds America of how embarrassed Mitt Romney is of Mitt Romney.

    1.  re: ” the public has every right to know how his financial past”

      Why? IMHO it’s a private matter. I don’t see why any president elect makes their tax returns public..

      1. How about so we can evaluate potential conflicts of interest? If Romney’s proposed tax plans include (for example) big deductions for millionaires with dancing horses then it’s worth knowing that he took a tax deduction for his dancing horse.

        1. Given the incredible scope of the presidency it’s pretty much impossible to avoid conflicts of interest.  Are you saying we shouldn’t have elected GWB because he would then be in charge of energy policy and give huge handouts to oil companies? 

          You’re not going to find a viable candidate that doesn’t have conflicts of interest.  Even Ron Paul has conflicts, especially with regards to his economic policy and gold holdings. 

          1. Are you saying we shouldn’t have elected GWB because he would then be in charge of energy policy and give huge handouts to oil companies?

            That and many other reasons.  Finding the candidate with the fewest conflicts of interest seems like a good strategy to me.  You’ve failed to convince me otherwise.

          2. Given the incredible scope of the presidency it’s pretty much impossible to avoid conflicts of interest.

            Of course you can’t eliminate all conflicts of interest, but the public should at least get a chance to find out what those conflicts are. I just want to see everyone’s cards on the table.

      2. Integrity, as in financial dealings that match public policy statements, is one of the few factors in an election that could be reasonably quantified via examining financial information. Or are you content that we should continue selecting our Presidents based on the doctrine of “He seems like an okay dude, bro.”

        1. re: “He seems like an okay dude, bro.”

          Do you really think the average voter doesn’t vote this way?

          The public is lazy and stupid, which is why we get what we get in these elections.

          1. This, boys and girls, is called “shifting the goalposts.”  The original claim was that the finances of those being elected to public office should not be held up to any sort of scrutiny.  The response was that this sort of financial scrutiny is one of the few ways there are to actually assess whether a candidate’s intentions are consistent with his or her rhetoric.

            Watch closely, now.  The counter to that was to point out that Americans are stupid and lazy.  ‘Cause that’s totally relevant.

            Dude, why should I care how the average voter votes?  Should the “fact” that Americans are lazy and stupid mean that I should use the same criteria they do to pick candidates? 

      3. then why have presidential CANDIDATES been releasing them for 60 years? it is a tradition, not a law, and it has been candidates doing it, not only the winners after they become President.

        But if he wants to run an above-board campaign *and* he is running on the strength of his skill at running his businesses and finances so well that he can do the same for the country, then I think the tax returns questions are very relevant.

        But it’s mainly because 60 yrs of precedent has been established, and he is chooosing not to do something that was expected of Obama.  

        Obama showed his taxes, and what did he get?  Grief for not showing his birth certificate.  When no other presidential candidate, including Romney, released their birth certificate.  

        If Obama showed his taxes to prove his financial reporting was above-board and not fraudulent, then the least Romney can do is the same thing.

        If his taxes are correct, ie legally correct, then Romney has nothing to worry about, and the story will be done.

        If his taxes are incorrect through errors or incompetence, or outright fraudulent, or whatever, would we rather know of this before the election, or after the election when he is President.

        And my final question, and I really don’t know the answer to this, so this is a serious question:
        If Romney did do actual fraudulent taxes, ie tax evasion, and it was discovered after he became President, would he be impeachable?  If he was somehow impeached or convicted, could he somehow issue his own self a pardon, maybe even at the investigation stage so that no further investigation could be conducted?  

        of final note, of course it wasnt in the Constitution because in 1789 there was no income tax.  I would say that maybe now is the time to add an amendment that somehow documentation verification needs to be done by some office for Pres, VP, Congress, etc..but there is not enough time to do that for this election, but for future, all these arguements can be avoided if we just require the documents from everyone to be turned into somewhere verifiable.

  8. Pretty craftily done. For the cost of the ads alone, Flynt buys publicity for himself, keeps the tax return story current, and probably never has to pony up another dime. 

  9. For a day, over at Talking Points Memo, there was a group of stories about how someone had managed to access Romney tax information and had sent the information to both campaign headquarters in flash drives and were demanding a weirdly small sum of money in blackmail. Then I heard nothing more about it. Did anyone else hear about this? 

    I almost feel like I dreamed it because of how quickly it popped up and disappeared.

    1. Publishing “stolen” tax returns would be a huge mistake if the Obama campaign were to do it. For Larry Flynt, on the other hand, it seems usual, customary and reasonable.

      1. Yeah, what I read was that the people at the Democratic campaign headquarters didn’t even look at it and just turned it over to the FBI. I didn’t hear anything beyond that. Maybe it was a hoax or something.

        1. Well, they did get mailed a USB flash drive, with a suspicious letter. It’d be pretty dumb to put that into a computer. Also, there’s such a thing as “too slimy”. Where I work we’ve been told stories (possibly made up to scare us, but plausible) about how would be industrial spies get busted when their would-be-customers turn down the information and rat them out to the person they stole from. Being ‘too slimy’ makes you look bad. Also, some of us genuinely believe you shouldn’t be slimy, and that even if you could steel all of Romney’s records and release them tomorrow, it would be wrong to do so.

      2. Which is why this could be a very conveeeeeenient situation: the Obama campaign (or some Obama-friendly government employee) steals the records and gives them to Flynt. The Obama campaign gets the benefit, and Flynt gets the publicity and the flak. You might even consider it a $1 million “campaign contribution.”

        1. Or they could just ask their reptilian friends for the information next time they take a delivery of fresh baby meat.

  10. Forgive the additional post but let’s point out that Romney may well have paid NO taxes due to a legal dodge that shouldn’t be tolerated but is…  I remember seeing this on TV on “60 Minutes” years back.

    Years back, in the 90s there was a Country/Western singer who suddenly got a very, very large paycheck for his album, like $65 million. He was approached by an “Accounting Firm” saying that for $3 million they could work it out so he paid NO taxes… He immediately contacted the IRS both scared he was being targeted for a sting and angry that they thought he was that stupid/greedy… Guess what!? they said “We checked them out and they are OK!” So, he was real mad. Paid his taxes in FULL, then went to 60 minutes. They exposed this. Essentially it’s what you hear “Sovereign Citizens” getting laughed into jail for. BUT, with $3 million spent in accountants, lawyers, lobbyists and insurance. Yes, if the IRS said “no, pay up” they have insurance… But they basically create on paper Corporation A that profits, B that blows out, step C = no taxes…

    In short, if Romney paid NO taxes, while it is “Legal” such a public disclosure of this at a time like this would END the loophole.  Not just for him, but his “Class” and likely Retroactively for 10+ years.  All those bridges collapsing and local police departments that wasted all their money on “Anti-Terrorism” toys but can’t stop the flood of burglaries and need more cop cars.  Our government needs the money.

    So, thus he has a reason to hide his tax returns, even if he hasn’t “Broken the law”.

    1. I am quite sure that Gov. Romney paid every dollar he was legally required to pay and not a dime more.  The thing is the tax code is so insanely complicated that to do that his tax return probably fills three bankers boxes.  Far, far better politically to refuse to release them and make that — nondisclosure — the issue than try to do deal with a thousand news stories written by people who don’t know the tax code asking why he deducted that or accelerated this or gifted that.

      1. I am quite sure that Gov. Romney paid every dollar he was legally required to pay and not a dime more.

        “I stuck to the exact letter of the law” is an attractive attribute in a lawyer or accountant. Less so in someone running to be President of the United States. Why shouldn’t he be held to a higher standard than the minimum?

      2. Whatever the Accountant speech, it’d come down to “Romney paid …. in taxes equaling …% of his income…”

        Why then take the loss of political points…?

        It’d be like 30 seconds to give his accountant/accounting firm permission to release them, then them not 30 minutes to prepare a publicly down-loadable .pdf…

        If it was just the 13% whatever he’s claimed, why not just then open them up?


        1.  I’m right, he’s paid ZERO taxes using a scheme that while technically “Legal” —note I’m not accusing him of actually breaking the law—, if revealed publically his loophole will be closed, perhaps retroactively…

        2.  Even worse, he’s paid LESS than ZERO taxes…?  All those jobs shipped overseas.  All those companies closed down, but not before their pension plans are looted and the companies are saddled with debt.  What should be “Fraud and theft” is business these days.

        Really, you are defending Romney…  How can you do so?

        Sorry if you think it’s “Unfair” but politics ain’t fair.  He’s essentially applying to the “Job” of “President of the USA”.  Would you hire him?

  11. The comment about Obama’s grades got deleted as I was writing this reply, and I hate to have wasted that time, so here goes:

    I’m not understanding the fascination with Obama’s grades. I’ve seen speculation that low college grades might suggest he benefited from affirmative action, but so what? People who don’t like affirmative action already don’t like Obama, and people who do like affirmative action realize opportunities for people like Obama are exactly why affirmative action has value. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law, for crying out loud.

    Romney’s tax returns, on the other hand, ought to be released for a variety of reasons as already discussed.

  12. My bet is he is hiding deductions for his multiple wives, plus one demon-dog.

    Vote Manos/Torgo in 2012!

  13. Well, the “legitimate” press doesn’t seem to be doing anything about the issue. And the fact that a man who wants to be POTUS isn’t even honest enough to show us his tax forms is an important issue.

  14. Romney’s refusal to release his tax records is doing him real damage. Thus, he must have made the call than whatever is in them is worse than any possible PR that comes from withholding them. I’ve heard a few interesting ideas of what might be in there. Wondering what others think of them, as well as any juicy theories you have heard.

    1) He has paid 0% taxes one or more years. Campaign feels this would be a deal breaker for his election chances. They are likely right.

    2) He took advantage of the ‘Swiss Bank Account’ Amnesty with the IRS in 2009. Campaign feels this would be a deal breaker for his election chances. They are likely right

    3) He tithes substantially more to the Mormons than he pays in taxes. Probably not as deal breaking as the first two, but still poor optics.

    4) This one is my favorite theory, just for the delicious optics of it. He has not been tithing as much as he is supposed to, and the revelation would be deeply embarrassing on more fronts than the campaign can count.

    1. When he was vetted by the McCain campaign, he gave then 20 years of returns.

      After looking at them, they immediately struck him from the list.

      I bet it’s all of the above, plus a dozen more reasons.

  15. Mitt’s father George was born in a polygamist colony in Mexico.  Mitt’s father is Mexican by birth, yet he still ran for president.  How do we know that Mitt’s not a Mexican as well?  Nobody has asked to see his birth certificate.  I want to see it.  I also want to see his tax records.

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