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Did Republican Candidate Deceive the Public About Her Wealth?

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Headlined to H3 11/22/11

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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

Documents in an Alabama-related divorce case indicate a 2010 GOP candidate for a U.S. House seat made deceptive statements about her family wealth.

Michele Rollins ran for Delaware's at-large House seat and lost in the Republican primary. Before bowing out in a race that ultimately went to Democrat John C. Carney, Rollins tried to downplay her wealth. In the process, she seemingly presented deceptive information to Delaware voters.

If that's not the case, then it appears someone was playing fast with the facts in a high-stakes divorce case with Alabama ties.

Had Rollins won the Delaware House seat, she immediately would have become one of the wealthiest members of Congress. With assets between $90 million and $350 million, Rollins would have been in the rarefied financial air occupied by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), worth at least $184 million, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), worth at least $156 million.

Rollins, however, apparently decided that her chances of winning would be enhanced if she downplayed her wealth. An article on the financial disclosure forms of Delaware candidates, described Rollins assets:

Rollins' disclosures, for example, tell you that she is a wealthy woman, with personal assets of $30 million to $141 million and her name attached to total property and investments worth at least $92 million and maybe as much as $350 million.

The forms don't tell you, though, that the estate of her late husband, businessman John W. Rollins Sr., was placed in trust for his 10 children and is inaccessible to her. John Rollins, a former lieutenant governor of Delaware, made his fortune with a truck-leasing firm, an entertainment complex that included Dover Downs and Dover Motorsports, and the lavish, 7,000-acre waterfront Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Michele Rollins' income comes largely from the dividends and interest emerging from the trusts Rollins set aside for the children.

That last sentence appears to be a reference to RMT Trust, the largest shareholder of Dover Motorsports  Inc. of Delaware. RMT Trust is controlled by a man named Henry B. Tippie, of Austin, Texas, who long has been the "money man" behind various Rollins ventures. Dover Motorsports Inc. has not been performing well, as the Bush recession has hurt a number of NASCAR venues, and one unhappy investor commissioned a study titled "Dancing on the Deck of the Titantic: Henry B. Tippie and Dover Motorsports Inc." Here is how that study described RMT Trust:

Following the death of John W. Rollins, Senior on April 4, 2000, Henry Tippie (at the time, Vice Chairman of Dover) was named executor of Mr. Rollins' vast estate, and thereafter, Mr. Tippie possessed more than 50% voting control of the Company. The Last Will and Testament of John W. Rollins, Senior, established the RMT Trust as the primary vehicle to transfer assets to his wife, Michele M. Rollins. Among many of its stakes in property and operating assets, the RMT Trust held 8 million shares of Class A Common Stock in 2009, which represented approximately 39.4% of the voting control of Dover Motorsports. The Last Will and Testament stipulated that the RMT Trust would be administered by three trustees, presently Michele M. Rollins, R. Randall Rollins, and Henry B. Tippie. Through an agreement which renews annually, Michele Rollins and Randall Rollins yielded sole discretion over the voting power of shares held by RMT Trust to Henry Tippie. Therefore, at the behest of the Rollins, Henry Tippie maintained the dual role of Chairman of the Company and voting trustee of RMT Trust and was able to single-handedly determine the outcome of any and all shareholder votes.

As you can see, Rollins family finances can get complicated. But we have tried to sort them out because the Rollinses have strong connections to Alabama--and we have seen signs that they tend not to play fair.

One of John Rollins' 10 children is Ted Rollins, the CEO of Campus Crest Communities and the subject of numerous posts here at Legal Schnauzer. Our interest in Ted Rollins stems mostly from a divorce case that Sherry Carroll Rollins launched against him in 2001. It also should be noted that Ted Rollins has strong business interests in Alabama. His primary corporate law firm is Birmingham-based Bradley Arant, and Campus Crest Communities recently announced that it plans to develop a $26.3 million student-housing project at Auburn University.

As for the Rollins v. Rollins  divorce case, it was filed in Greenville, South Carolina, where the couple lived, and was litigated there for roughly three years. When Ted Rollins failed to make court-ordered payments on the former marital residence, Sherry Carroll Rollins and the couple's two daughters were kicked out of their house and forced to flee to Alabama, where Ms. Rollins had relatives.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
 
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