The New York Times has a fascinating scoop detailing how one of Mitt Romney's sons, Matt, made a business trip to Russia this week to solicit funds for his real estate company, Excel Trust. According to the Times, Matt told a Russian "known to be able to deliver messages to Mr. Putin" that "despite the campaign rhetoric, his father wants good relations if he becomes president."
The story is sure to undercut Mitt's campaign effort to paint President Obama as too soft on Russia. Only last week, a pro-Romney group began airing an ad accusing Obama of securing the "dictator vote" of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Aside from siphoning the life from Romney's position as a Russia hawk, this trip may also preview the type of family business-related conflicts of interest that are already becoming an issue for the candidate. For one thing, if Matt is going to deliver a foreign policy announcement about his father during a business meeting, isn't that a clear message to his potential partners that he has special access to policymaking?
Are the Russians more motivated to invest with Matt's firm now that they know they could be dealing with the future president's son? The Times reveals that Matt made the trip to Russia to persuade officials to invest sovereign wealth funds with his company, which owns shopping centers in the United States. If Matt keeps relaying substantive policy messages through his firm, he might seem like a good investment if you're a foreign politician.
Earlier last month, I reported on a similar dynamic that is occuring with another Romney family enterprise, Solamere Capital. Solamere Capital is a "fund of fund" private equity firm that was founded by Tagg Romney, Mitt's eldest son, with money and help from his father. What sets the firm apart is its incredible network of business partners, which include some of the leading private equity firms in the country.