Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman Jr. charged that Mitt Romney would be a “status quo president” on issues dealing with Wall Street and Washington influence peddling.
Romney, who’s leading in opinion polls of his party’s nomination race, should release his tax returns because “transparency” and “trust” are central issues in the campaign, Huntsman also said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and multimillionaire former private equity manager, has so far refused to release his returns.
Huntsman hasn’t released his own tax returns. Campaign spokesman Tim Miller said the candidate would disclose his returns if he wins the party’s nomination.
Huntsman, a former Utah governor and multimillionaire businessman, has proposed limiting the size of the country’s largest banks to avoid any future taxpayer liabilities.
If the U.S. banks “get infected with the flu that’s making the rounds in Europe, they have to be bailed out, because if they fail, we all go down,” Huntsman said, adding that’s “right for the taxpayers.”
He suggested that some of his Republican rivals -- particularly Romney, who has received the most campaign contributions from the financial community -- would be captives of Wall Street if elected.
Wall Street ‘Captive’
“It becomes very difficult when you’ve taken tens of millions of dollars from the banking community, from Wall Street, and for many, many years, to have a discussion that fundamentally alters their course,” said Huntsman, 51. “It can only be done, I would argue, by someone who isn’t a captive, a subsidiary of Wall Street.”
Huntsman, whose family owns a petro-chemical conglomerate, rejected Romney’s claim that his experience as chief executive officer of the private equity firm Bain Capital LLC was an important credential to be president and would help him create jobs. Romney, 64, has made his business experience a central argument for his candidacy.
Instead, Huntsman said voters should look at Romney’s four-year record as governor of Massachusetts.
“If you’ve got dead last, practically, in terms of job creation, that’s going to stand out a lot more prominently in people’s minds, I believe, than anything you did in the private sector,” he said.
During Romney’s 2003-2007 term, unemployment in Massachusetts averaged 5.1 percent, compared with a national average of 5.3 percent, and 45,800 jobs were added. Utah’s jobless rate during Huntsman’s 2005-2009 governorship averaged 3.8 percent, compared with a national average of 5.5 percent for that period, and 91,800 jobs were created.
Huntsman, who served as U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama until last year, also said that Romney’s frequent reversals on issues such as immigration policy and how to deal with China make him ill-suited “to generate the kind of trust that is so needed among the electorate.”
Huntsman came back to the trust question, a major theme of his campaign, in criticizing Romney for not releasing his tax returns.
“If the citizens and the voters of New Hampshire and beyond are going to trust us and our message and how we’re going to lead this country, transparency needs to be part of that,” Huntsman said.
On federal financial disclosure forms, Huntsman reported owning assets valued between $16 million and $71 million, including between $5 million and $25 million in his family’s holding company, which owns stock in Huntsman Corp., a Salt Lake City-based chemical maker. Romney reported between $190 million and $250 million in assets, which his campaign said were in a blind trust. He did report owning between $50,000 and $100,000 apiece in Boeing Co., Visa Inc., and Bank of America Corp.
One of the other Republican candidates, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, in a campaign appearance in New Hampshire on Jan. 5 compared gay marriage to polygamy, asking voters who supported same-sex wedlock: “Well, what about three men?”
Santorum continued: “If reason says that if you think it’s OK for two, then you have to differentiate with me as to why it’s not OK three.”
Huntsman described that kind of rhetoric as divisive, saying the conversation ought to be based on “fairness and dignity.”
Huntsman, who’s based his entire campaign on a strong showing in New Hampshire’s Jan. 10 primary, continues to run well behind Romney.
Romney had the support of 40 percent of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, according to a Suffolk University/7 News tracking poll taken Jan. 4-5. U.S. Representative Ron Paul was backed by 17 percent, compared with 11 percent for Santorum, 9 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and 8 percent for Huntsman.
Huntsman suggested that he would do better. “We’re going to exceed market expectations,” he said.
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