Underscoring the prominent, if little discussed role that Mitt Romney played as a Mormon leader, the private equity giant once run by the GOP presidential frontrunner carved his church a slice of several of its most lucrative business deals, securities records show, providing it with millions of dollars worth of stock in some of Bain Capital's most well-known holdings.
Romney has always been a major donor to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which requires that members "tithe," or give 10 percent of their income to the church. His family charity, called the Tyler Foundation, has given more than $4 million to the church in the past five years, including $1.8 million in 2008 and $600,000 in 2009. But because Romney, whose fortune has been estimated at $250 million, has never released his personal tax returns, the full extent of his giving has never been public.Note how the news story wants to not only convey to you that he's a Mormon but also a leader in the church, "a little discussed role" ABC News explains. The set up implies something more sinister going on with "millions more [in contributions] than has previously been disclosed," suggesting hidden donations lurking in all of those large business transactions conducted while Romney ran Bain Capital.
As part of just one Bain transaction in 2008, involving its investment in Burger King Holdings, filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveal that an unnamed Bain partner donated 65,326 shares of Burger King stock to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holdings then worth nearly $1.9 million. And there were numerous others, giving the church a stake in other Bain properties, such as Domino's Pizza, the electronics manufacturer DDi, the phosphates company Innophos Holdings, and Marquee Holdings, the parent to AMC Theaters.
The Republican presidential candidate's campaign staff confirmed that some of the stock transactions were at Romney's direction, but they would not say which ones.
"Mitt Romney has publicly stated that he regularly tithes to his church," said Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman, when asked about the Bain contributions. "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."The ABC News story practically laments the fact that "[q]uestions about Romney's faith have remained largely subdued during the 2012 campaign," quite the opposite protectionist role the media took whenever anyone raised questions about Obama's Muslim background or the farcical rantings of his controversial Christian minister in 2008, or the role Kennedy's Catholicism played in the 1960 presidential race. The story includes the obligatory quote from the candidate assuring us that his religion does not "define my candidacy." The church's authority is limited to church affairs and "ends where the affairs of the nations begins" he tells the probing reporter. Debate over? Not quite. The reporter goes out of his way to find a religious professor at our own Indiana University-Purdue University to sound the alarm.
The Mormon church is distinct from many other American denominations in what it asks from adherents in money, time and commitment -- and not just because it asks young Mormon males to spend two years proselytizing for the faith as missionaries, said Jan Shipps, a religion professor at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, and one of the preeminent non-Mormon authorities on the church.
Romney has spoken about the 30 months he spent in France as a missionary, but his role within the church as an adult is largely unexplored. Shipps said Romney has held several significant posts within church leadership, including bishop and "stake" president, a leadership post that covers a sizeable geographic area and requires a significant commitment of time.
Beyond that, Romney appears to have lived up to rigid financial requirements within the church that asks parishioners to contribute 10 percent of their annual earnings.In other words, the story is trying to convey to you that Mormons are not like other Christian churches, the only real reason behind the story. You can bet that this will be just one of many stories that will surface in mainstream media reports discussing Romney's religion for less than pure motives. The media will assure us it's just to inform the voters, not to foment prejudice against the candidate and his religion. That can only be the case when one is discussing a liberal Democratic candidate.