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Swiss Mitt: Democrats, Gingrich train fire on bank account

Regardless of whether Mitt Romney’s bank account in Switzerland has been shuttered, regardless of whether he disclosed his income from it and paid U.S. taxes in full on that income, regardless of whether the candidate doesn’t even know what was in it, Democrats--along with Newt Gingrich--seem determined to make it as much of an albatross for Romney as they can.

The term “Swiss bank account” sounds straight out of Ludlum or Le Carre, but Romney’s detractors see it more as another emblem of wealth and privilege. The existence of the account came to light Tuesday as Romney released two years of tax information.

Romney’s financial planner, R. Bradford Malt, who oversees the candidate’s investments through three blind trusts, said Tuesday that the account was open between 2003 and 2010, when it was closed as part of a periodic review of Romney’s portfolio. The account, worth $3 million, was held through the United Bank of Switzerland.

“It was a bank account, nothing more and nothing less,” Malt said. He said he closed it because “it just wasn’t worth it.” Even though the account was closed just as Romney was gearing up a second presidential bid, Malt wouldn’t acknowledge it was shuttered for political reasons, saying such an account “might or might not be inconsistent with Gov. Romney’s political views.”

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David Axelrod, the Obama reelection campaign’s senior strategist, served notice on Twitter on Wednesday that the campaign would not allow the disclosure of the account--along with the confirmation that Romney paid a lower tax rate than many wealthy Americans--to be overshadowed by President Obama’s State of the Union address, delivered later the same day.

“Mitt may have thought story would be buried by SOU, but, if so, it was a Swiss Miss,” Axelrod wrote.

And indeed, the Democratic National Committee has wasted no time getting into the act, releasing a web video Wednesday that suggests Romney is hiding something regarding the Swiss account. The video, scored with an appropriate spy-thriller soundtrack, also questions why Romney wouldn’t release more than two years’ worth of tax returns when he reportedly turned over 23 years of returns to the John McCain campaign four years ago when he was being vetted as a possible vice-presidential pick.

Romney’s campaign said Tuesday that the candidate wasn’t handing over more financial information because it feared Democrats would do precisely what they are doing with the Romney returns, using them as a political weapon.

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Not to be outdone (he never is), Romney’s archrival, Newt Gingrich, was quick to mention the Swiss account in remarks at a presidential forum in South Florida on Wednesday. He was asked about Romney’s argument that if job opportunities for the millions of illegal immigrants in the United States were cut off, many would “self-deport” back to their home countries.

“I think you have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts and automatic, you know, $20-million-a-year income with no work to have some fantasy this far from reality,” Gingrich said.

Romney’s campaign maintains that Romney’s investments in the Caymans, known as a tax haven, were in funds based there and that he held no accounts. It’s also said that Romney reported all income on the Swiss and Cayman investments and fully paid U.S. taxes on them.

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