President Barack Obama's reelection campaign pounced Friday on a New York Times report that Mitt Romney may stand to profit, through a family blind trust administered by the Bain Capital private equity firm he founded, from China's government surveillance of its citizens.
Here's how The Times puts it:
"In December, a Bain-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust has holdings purchased the video surveillance division of a Chinese company that claims to be the largest supplier to the government's Safe Cities program, a highly advanced monitoring system that allows the authorities to watch over university campuses, hospitals, mosques and movie theaters from centralized command posts."
Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, seized the opportunity to hit back at Romney, who has sharply assailed the president's policy towards China: "Mitt Romney has criticized President Obama on the campaign trail for putting economic interests ahead of human rights in China. But this new revelation about Romney's financial interest in a Chinese surveillance company suggests that Romney is not living up to his own publicly-stated values."
"Mitt Romney seems to play by one set of rules on the campaign trail but has another set of rules for his own finances," she said in a statement the campaign emailed to Yahoo News.
The Times noted that "Mr. Romney has had no role in Bain's operations since 1999 and had no say over the investment in China. But the fortunes of Bain and Mr. Romney are still closely tied."
And Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul called Cutter's remarks "a ridiculous attack from President Obama who is trying desperately to change the subject from price shock at the gas pump, which is creating more misery for people trying to survive his bad economy."
"Governor Romney left Bain 13 years ago, and his investments are in a blind trust, but that is not the issue on the minds of voters. The issue is we have an administration that has no idea what to do about rising gas prices because it's running on empty," she said in a statement by email to Yahoo News.
But the Times report gave fresh ammunition to Democrats who have already gleefully painted Romney as the poster child for Wall Street excess and as out of touch with average Americans, and suggested that the former Massachusetts governor is hiding something by not making a fuller disclosure of his finances.
"Now we know why Mitt Romney has been less than forthcoming about the details of his finances. This revelation not only highlights Romney's utter hypocrisy on China, but it also raises more questions about what his investments are and why he won't reveal all of them," Cutter said.
A Romney campaign spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.