President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign famously trolled Mitt Romney for having bank accounts in the Cayman Islands throughout 2012, with campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt calling it proof that the Republican “bets against America.”
It’s a line that was echoed during the election by Governor Martin O’Malley, the Democratic National Committee, and several web ads on Obama’s own YouTube channel, which featured at least 20 videos mentioning Romney’s Cayman accounts. A search for Cayman Islands on the Obama campaign’s website brings back more than 1,200 results.
But now that one of Obama’s cabinet nominees is defending his own Cayman account, Democrats are suddenly silent on the matter.
Jack Lew, who has been nominated for secretary of treasury, invested $56,000 in a CitiGroup venture capital fund based in the Cayman Islands’ Ugland House, a building that in 2008, Obama called “either the biggest building or the biggest tax scam on record.”
Lew sold his investment in 2010 for $54,418 when he was confirmed as the White House budget director, and his Cayman fund went unnoticed until the Obama campaign effectively used Romney’s offshore bank accounts to paint him as a greedy suit willing to do anything to earn a dollar.
Cayman bank accounts would normally not be an issue, even for a post at Treasury. When Henry Paulson, then the CEO of Goldman Sachs, was nominated for treasury secretary by President Bush in 2006, Republicans didn’t take issue with Paulson’s large investments in the Cayman Islands. Paulson’s financial disclosure showed 21 different Cayman investments.
But Obama’s campaign pushed the Cayman issue hard in 2012, going so far as to hand out fake Cayman Islands passports to reporters. Now the president’s team finds themselves on the opposite end of political schadenfreude.