08.16.11

Romney's Health-Care Portfolio

On the stump, Mitt Romney’s been trying to run away from his record on health care. But financial disclosures show the former governor’s not giving up on his health-care stocks, Laura Colarusso reports.

Mitt Romney has tried politically to divest himself of the health-care reform bill he signed into law as Massachusetts governor. But the blind trusts he and his wife, Ann, share have kept a healthy hand in health-care-industry stocks, which have helped sustain their multimillion-dollar fortune.

Romney’s financial stake in the health-care sector, which included a paid speech last year to an industry group, is detailed in the latest round of financial-disclosure reports filed by Republican presidential candidates in recent days. The forms, a quadrennial rite of presidential elections, describe the candidates’ income, assets, and debts in broad ranges.

As expected, those reports show Romney is one of the richest candidates in the field, earning between $9 million and $43 million in income and owning assets between $84 million and $264 million for 2010 and part of 2011. His campaign narrowed his assets to a smaller range of $190 million to $250 million, about the same as it was when he ran for the presidency four years ago.

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, the heir to a family fortune from his father’s chemical company, is another of the field’s well-to-do candidates, with assets of between $17.8 million and $84 million, according to the financial disclosure form he filed in 2009, when he crossed party lines to serve as the Obama administration’s ambassador to China. He hasn’t filed his financial disclosure report yet for the campaign.

Republican primary challenger Herman Cain, a successful entrepreneur who ran the Godfather’s Pizza chain for nine years, is also expected to boast a hefty portfolio. Like Huntsman, he hasn't filed his financial disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission.

That Romney makes money off an industry that will likely be a central campaign issue “will definitely be useful for opposition research,” Krumholz said.

In comparison, President Obama reported in May that he had income between $1.1 million and $6.2 million and assets of between $2.8 million and $11.8 million in 2010.

And Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), winner of last weekend’s Iowa straw poll, reported assets valued between $900,000 and $2.1 million, a fair amount for a lifelong public servant whose folksy appeal to middle-class Americans has boosted her popularity in the state with the first presidential contest in 2012.

Although Bachmann is a relentless critic of government spending and a favorite of the Tea Party, two of her biggest assets have been the beneficiary of federal funds, her disclosure report shows. She holds a stake of at least $600,000 in her husband’s Christian-based counseling service, which has received more than $137,000 in Medicaid reimbursements since 2005. She also has a $100,000 interest in her late father-in-law’s farm, which received at least a quarter of a million dollars in federal agricultural subsidies between 1995 and 2008.

The personal finances of a candidate can give people a sense of who the politician is and whether he or she can relate to the experiences of average Americans, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks political donations. “Voters should use these disclosure reports to understand the backgrounds of those running for office,” Krumholz said. “And it’s important to monitor investments so that we can judge official conduct in light of a politician’s personal holdings.”

Romney reported more than a dozen health-care holdings in one broad investment fund alone, ranging from drug giants like Eli Lilly and Pfizer to the insurer United Health Group. The exact value of each investment, however, wasn't itemized, and the size of the fund was simply described as larger than $1 million, a limitation of the FEC reporting system. With such a broad portfolio, Romney's blue-chip holdings touch nearly every imaginable political issue, from oil companies such as Exxon that are being targeted for tax increases by Democrats to federally backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that some Republicans want to end.

Another account managed by Thornburg Investment Management owns shares of Fresenius Medical Care, a dialysis-services company that provides care to kidney patients on five continents.

Romney has faced relentless criticism from his GOP rivals for ushering in universal health care in Massachusetts, complete with an individual mandate. For much of the year, Romney has sought to distance himself from the landmark legislation while still criticizing Obama’s national health-care plan, a tricky undertaking, as the two laws have many similarities.

That Romney makes money off an industry that will likely be a central campaign issue could make things difficult for the candidate as primary season approaches, Krumholz said. “It will definitely be useful for opposition research,” she said.

Romney campaign officials wouldn’t comment on specific funds but said in a statement that the investments “are in a range of areas, such as consumer staples, energy, financial, health care, industrial, information technology, materials, and telecommunications.”

Outside the blind trusts, which the Romneys have no control over and are managed by Boston attorney Brad Malt, the couple has between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of Abbott Laboratories stock. Abbott, a global health-care company, produces everything from feeding tubes to rheumatoid-arthritis medication.

The filing showed that Romney has pulled in more than $374,000 in speaking fees since February 2010. The former governor gave talks at Claremont McKenna College in California and at Hewlett Packard Healthcare Services in Dallas. Romney’s compensation for serving on Marriott’s board of directors, a post he resigned from in January of this year, was close to $114,000.

Romney’s book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness netted the former governor between $100,000 and $1 million in royalties, but he donated the money to charity.