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Jan 19, 2017

NYT | Politics: Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Nominee, Failed to Disclose $100 Million in Assets - January 19, 2017

nytimes.com


Alan Rappeport
Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, pointedly asked Mr. Mnuchin if he was using Cayman Islands corporations to avoid taxation. He responded that he was working on behalf of his clients, in accordance with the law.
“Let me just be clear again: I did not use a Cayman Islands entity in any way to avoid paying taxes for myself,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “I would love to work with the I.R.S. to close these tax issues that make no sense.”
He added: “I would support changing the tax laws to make sure they are simpler and more effective.”
Republicans came to Mr. Mnuchin’s defense, suggesting that none of his omissions were willful, and they gave strong indications that they would vote for him.
Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, defended Mr. Mnuchin’s business record and described him as extremely qualified for the job.
“Objectively speaking, I don’t believe anyone can reasonably argue that Mr. Mnuchin is unqualified for the position,” Mr. Hatch said. “If the confirmation process focused mainly on the question of a nominee’s qualifications, there would be little, if any, opposition to Mr. Mnuchin’s nomination.”
But the process was also focused on Mr. Mnuchin’s financial disclosure form, and that prompted intense scrutiny.
“In his revised questionnaire, Mr. Mnuchin disclosed several additional financial assets, including $95 million worth of real estate — a co-op in New York City, a residence in Southampton, New York, a residence in Los Angeles, California, and $15 million in real estate holdings in Mexico,” Democratic staff members of the Senate Finance Committee wrote in a memo on Thursday. “Mr. Mnuchin has claimed these omissions were due to a misunderstanding of the questionnaire.”
According to the memo, Mr. Mnuchin also initially failed to disclose that he is the director of Dune Capital International, an investment fund incorporated in the Cayman Islands, along with management posts in seven other investment funds.
And he belatedly disclosed that his children own nearly $1 million in artwork.
Asked about the omissions at the hearing, Mr. Mnuchin described them as a simple mistake made amid a mountain of bureaucracy.
“I think as you all can appreciate, filling out these government forms is quite complicated,” Mr. Mnuchin said, noting that he had handed over 5,000 pages of disclosures. “Let me first say, any oversight, it was unintentional.”
But Democrats pounced and tied Mr. Mnuchin to Mr. Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Pressed as to whether his failure to disclose the information was an ethical lapse, Mr. Mnuchin insisted that he was following the guidance of his lawyers and made an innocent error.
“I assure you that these forms were very complicated,” he said, explaining that he had pledged to be forthcoming to “the best of my knowledge.”
Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, was unsatisfied with the response and shot back, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the words ‘list all positions.’”
To that, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, added: “Never before has the Senate considered such an ethically challenged slate of nominees for key cabinet positions. Mr. Mnuchin’s failure to disclose his Cayman Islands holdings just reeks of the swamp that the president-elect promised to drain on the campaign trail.”
And American Bridge, the so-called Democratic super PAC, said Mr. Mnuchin’s holdings were a sign that Mr. Trump’s government would not look out for working class Americans.
“By slamming through Mnuchin, Senate Republicans are becoming accessories to Trump’s future corruption, helping him stack his cabinet with shady billionaires who, like Trump, will rig the government to serve their own interests at the expense of the American people,” said Shripal Shah, vice president of American Bridge.