The past week has inspired much debate over the whether Mitt Romney perjured himself by improperly describing himself as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” of Bain Capital on SEC reports, years after he claimed to have left the company.
If Romney truly left the company in 1999, it would mean he made false statements on his SEC filings – a criminal offense.
The scandal is hardly the first time a politician has been accused of misdeeds, but what's striking about both Romney and Barack Obama is the sheer amount of illegal acts each man has admitted to — every single one of them unpunished. No matter who America chooses in November, the man being sworn in will have crimes in his past that could have ruined an everyday person.
Let's run down the list:
Romney's decades-long crime spree began while he was a student at Stanford University. While studying in the Bay Area, the future Massachusetts governor enjoyed posing as a police officer and pulling over unsuspecting motorists.
“He told us that he had gotten [a] uniform from his father,” said Robin Madden, a classmate of Romney’s, in an interview with The National Memo. “He told us that he was using it to pull over drivers on the road."
A New York Times article also backs up this accusation, quoting the author of "The Real Romney," who says Romney often “dressed up in a uniform similar to that worn by a police officer, put a flashing red ‘cherry top’ on his car.”
Impersonating a police officer is a felony in California, punishable by up to 12 months in prison.
Meanwhile, President Obama’s memoir “Dreams from my Father” – which was published in 1995, long before Obama sought higher office – details his own adventures in the world of illegal activities.
In the book, Obama talks about “getting high” and smoking “reefer” in “the dorm room of some brother” while at Occidental College, which was a misdemeanor in California before 2010. The future president also mentions indulging in the consumption of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine while in high school in Hawaii; some of his classmates say he was never truly a party animal or a hard drug user, though -- a factor many judges use when debating how much leniency to use on young offenders.
“If someone passed him a joint, he would take a drag. We’d smoke or have one extra beer, but he would not even do as much as other people on campus,” Mr. Vinai Thummalapally, an Obama fund-raiser, said in an interview with the New York Times.
“The highs hadn’t been about … trying to prove what a down brother I was,” he wrote. “I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind.”
Despite the familiarity of his past struggles, the Obama Administration now uses the War on Drugs as a driving force to encourage the Drug Enforcement Administration to make 30,000 drug-related arrests per year.
Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney have ever been charged with a crime.
With so many sources spawning questions regarding legal lapses of both Romney and Obama, the true question remains: No matter who wins, how will the president establish a trust factor between his administration and the general public, given each candidate's own illegal past?