Romney’s taxes, contributions under scrutiny

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As the Republican presidential race heats up and the field narrows, Mitt Romney was asked to release his recent tax records to the American public. He’s facing allegations of off-shore accounts in the Cayman Islands and other tax-harboring techniques as he admits that he pays a much lower tax rate, just 15 percent, than most Americans.

Another detail that may be leaked with the release of his tax records is his extremely close financial ties to the Mormon Church. His church requires that all members tithe an even 10 percent on all income, and with an estimated fortune of more than $250 million, that amount is bound to be staggering.

However, the tax records may show an even closer tie to the LDS leaders in Utah and Romney’s involvement in the Proposition 8 battle against same-sex marriage in California, which the Church heavily supported. While Romney released his tax records for 2010 and 2011, he did not show his contributions made during the Prop. 8 battle, when his church asked members to donate time and money to fight against gay marriage in California.

Romney’s charity, the Tyler Foundation, has donated more than $4 million to the Church in the past five years. In 2008, at the height of the Prop. 8 campaign, it made a $1.8 million contribution and $600,000 in 2009. Because Romney has not yet released his personal tax returns for those years, the full picture of how much money Romney has donated to the Mormon Church is impossible to determine.

But newly uncovered donations to the LDS Church by Bain Capital reveal what may come with the release of his records.  As part of a single transaction in 2008, again during the height of the fight against marriage equality in California, filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveal that an anonymous Bain partner donated more than 65,000 shares of Burger King Holdings to the LDS Church. The estimated total at the time was approximately $1.9 million. Other holdings were given to the Mormon Church, including investments in Domino’s Pizza, the electronics company DDi and a phosphate company.

Romney’s campaign staff admitted to ABC News that some of the stock transactions were made by Romney, but would not release any details.

“Mitt Romney has publicly stated that he regularly tithes to his Church,” Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman, told ABC News. “Some of those church contributions have come through the Tyler Foundation. Others have been donations of stock through Bain. Any shares donated by Mitt Romney are personal shares owned by him.”

Romney’s faith has not come under fire much this campaign season and many believe a speech he gave in 2007 helped quash rumors of the Mormon Church’s involvement in his campaign.

“I do not define my candidacy by my religion,” Romney said in his 2007 address. “A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.” Romney said the Mormon Church’s authority is limited to church affairs, “and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.”

Romney’s 2010 and 2011 tax returns indicate he earned about $42.6 million and donated the required 10 percent to the Mormon Church. He paid about $6.2 million in taxes over those two years, which is about a 13.9 percent tax rate.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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