Is Mitt Romney a felon? A Q&A with MoveOn’s lawyer.

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-09-2012-05-2008

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U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the press following his meetings at 10 Downing Street in London, July 26, 2012. U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's high-profile overseas trip got off to a rocky start on Thursd

MoveOn has sent a letter to the Public Integrity Division of the United State Department of Justice urging it to investigate whether Mitt Romney committed a felony by violating the False Statements Act when he claimed, on his personal financial disclosure form filed in 2011, that he was “not involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way” after February 12, 1999. The letter was accompanied by detailed legal analysis backing up its allegations, and its author, Joseph Sandler, is no slouch, having served as general counsel to the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Governors Association, among others. I interviewed Sandler via email on Friday, and he has agreed to answer questions in the Comments. Here’s what we discussed:

Q: What is the False Statements Act?

Sandler: The False Statements Act is a law that makes it a federal criminal offense—a felony—to knowingly make any false statement to any U.S. Government agency. It is applied in a wide variety of situations, including making false statements to federal law enforcement agents; making false statements on any kind of government form (grant, loan or assistance application, etc.); putting false information on reports required to be filed with any U.S. Government agency, etc. Even when a document you submit to a US Government agency doesn’t have to be notarized or under oath, this law still makes it a crime to put any false information on that document—as long as the person who filled out the form knew the information was false, the information was relevant to the agency’s operation and within its jurisdiction.

Q: Romney is accused of making false statements on his Public Financial Disclosure Form. What’s the importance of this form, and what sorts of things was Romney required to disclose?

Sandler: The form Romney was required to fill out is the Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Report. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978—one of the reform laws passed after the Watergate scandal—requires this form to be filled out by candidates for President and Vice President; presidential nominees to Executive Branch positions requiring Senate confirmation; the incumbent President and Vice President; most of the White House staff; all federal employees appointed by the President; and most very senior federal officials in the Civil Service and special Government employees, and certain other federal officials. The purpose of the form is to disclose personal financial interests—income received, assets held, debts—so that the public (and for incumbent officials, federal ethics officers) can determine whether there may be a conflict of interest on the part of the federal official.


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