I love it:
Disclosure forms reveal that Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a member of Congress from Florida, previously held funds with investments in Swiss banks, foreign drug companies, and the state bank of India. This revelation comes mere days after the Democratic chair attacked presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for holding money in Swiss bank accounts in the past.
“Americans need to ask themselves, why does an American businessman need a Swiss bank account and secretive investments like that?” the DNC chair, a chief surrogate for President Obama’s reelection team, said on Fox News Sunday two days ago. “Just something, a thought, that I’d like to leave folks with.”
It’s been a consistent theme of Obama’s reelection strategy: Attack Romney for foreign investments he held, especially in Swiss bank accounts, “to try to promote his wealthy, out-of-touch businessman persona.”
But disclosure forms reveal that in 2010, Wasserman Schultz invested between $1,001-$15,000 in a 401k retirement fund run by Davis Financial Fund. As the fund discloses, it is invested in the Julius Baer Group Ltd. and the State Bank of India GDR Ltd., as well as other financial, insurance, bank institutions.
“The Julius Baer Group is the leading Swiss private banking group, focusing exclusively on the demands of sophisticated private clients, family offices and external asset managers from around the world,” its website explains. “Bank Julius Baer is the principal operating company of the Julius Baer Group, with origins dating back to 1890. The rich Swiss heritage becomes manifest in the values for which the Bank stands, e.g. trustworthiness, accountability, discretion and expertise. However, at the same time Julius Baer is a modern, forward-looking company at the leading edge of a genuine growth industry.”
Similarly, according to disclosure forms from 2004, Wasserman Schultz had holdings in the Fidelity Advisor Overseas Fund. That fund is invested in HSBC bank (a British financial institution), Hengdeli Holdings (a Hong Kong watch company), Novo Nordisk (a Danish drug company), Volkswagen (a German auto company), Rakuten (a Japanese shipping business), Richemont Cie Financiere (a Swiss luxury goods company), and many others.
Whoops. The old hypocrisy/double standards bear bites again.
Not that investing in foreign companies is evil, unethical, or illegal – but if DWS and her party are going to call out Mitt Romney on his “Swiss bank account” investments as if there’s something dirty and sleazy, as they insinuate, unAmerican about it, they should have to answer for their own – starting with her.
Related to this, Reason’s Matt Welch tackles “Democratic Swissophobia” in a must-read-in-full:
Whether tautological or conspiratorial, Democratic Swissophobia precludes the idea that Americans could possibly have a legitimate reason to park money in one of the world’s leading financial centers. “Mitt Romney,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben Labolt stated gravely in an attack ad, “had a bank account in Switzerland.” Why, that’s not what normal Americans like Robert Gibbs do! “I pick a bank because there’s an ATM near my home,” the former White House press secretary said over the weekend. “Romney had a bank account in Switzerland.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, also smelled a rat: “Americans need to ask themselves: why does an American businessman need a Swiss bank account and secretive investments like that?” And here’s LaBolt again, in a tweet from May: “There are only 2 reasons to have a Swiss bank account: hedging against the dollar or avoiding paying fair share in taxes.”
Do you know who else once had a Swiss bank account? I mean, besides Hitler? Various U.S. military veterans, dual-national citizens who haven’t lived or worked in America for decades, and panicked retirees who are trying to cope with new tax rules imposed capriciously by a revenue-hungry Congress and president in 2010. Thousands of such Americans are getting bounced out of their existing Swiss accounts and denied new ones, even if they live and work in Geneva for one of the city’s many international non-governmental organizations.
But in addition to the living-in-Switzerland explanation for having a Swiss bank account, there are at least three other perfectly seemly reasons for Americans to have one:
1) Because you (or your spouse) is making or has made Swiss francs. This explains, for example, me: My wife used to work freelance for various Swiss media outlets, and we were happy to save on wire-transfer and exchange-rate costs by having the money deposited directly into a local bank. Just last week we stopped by the bank to pull out some walking-around money, and were told we would likely have to shut the account down because of FATCA. Only some sensitive negotiation stayed the execution, but who knows for how long; a Swiss banker friend told me later in the day that his company is simply pulling the plug on all U.S.-related business.
In Romney’s case, it is perfectly conceivable that he made money at Bain Capital doing Swiss-denominated consulting work, since Switzerland has a disproportionate number of European/international headquarters (including of the Olympic Games), but I have no idea if this is true.
2) Because you believe in diversifying your portfolio. Remember at the top of this article when Dick Durbin criticized people who “believe the Swiss franc is stronger than the American dollar”? Well, it is. Ten years ago a greenback reliably got you more than 1.40 Swiss francs, but the dollar was down to 0.86 when the Swiss National Bank announced a currency peg to the Euro last September. Though that helped break the fall, the buck still hasn’t clawed its way back above the 1.00-franc mark since, and I would be comfortable wagering that another decade from now it will be closer to 0.50.
Is Dick Durbin protecting his million-dollar portfolio through a buy-American-only strategy? Hell no, he isn’t—why, just right there I can see such asset items as “ING Clarion Global Real Estate Income,” and “Matthews Asia Dividend Investor,” and “Morgan Stanley Emerging Markets Domestic.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Switzerland is an unusually stable country with an unusually sound fiscal track record and an unusually strong banking sector. I would be shocked if any $100 million American didn’t have at least some stake in a country that has long been one of the largest foreign investors in the United States.
3) Because it really is none of your damned business. This applies more to Joe the Plumber than Mitt the Romney (politicians, and especially presidential aspirants, deserve to be held to a higher standard), but the ugly truth as it stands today is that Uncle Sam believes he has a right to know each and every detail about your money, so long as it is parked in a foreign financial institution instead of buried in your back yard. There is something very wrong about the principle that your after-tax earnings are subject to still more scrutiny by the most powerful government the world has ever known, and something insidious about the sight of politicians blaming Americans’ investment choices for their own shoddy governance.
What’s clear from the most recent round of direct or indirect attacks on Romney from the Obama campaign (and the MSM) on taxes, alleged “outsourcing“, Romney’s income and investments, heck – even his & Mrs. Romney’s horses, they are making the brutal summer/fall campaign season about class warfare, a common fallback for desperate Democrats – especially in an election year. This is all Barack Obama and Co. (and their allies in the mainstream press, natch) have left. They cannot run honestly on their own record, so they spin the jobs reports like crazy, ignore their flaming hypocrisy on deceptive and “negative” campaigning (not to mention overseas investments), and wage a vicious war on capitalism – or I should say continue their war on capitalism, since it started the day Barack Obama was sworn in as our nation’s 44th President and hasn’t stopped. They’re just ramping it up now when average Americans are still nervous and sweating bullets about the economy, with millions still looking for jobs that this President promised to enable businesses to create.
Thank goodness he’s finally losing a substantial amount of support from independents who fell for his con act in 2008. On this issue, they are the one precious voting bloc for his side that now “get it.” Hope enough of the rest wake up before November. Or … yikes. Don’t even want to think about it.