Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s tax records have allegedly been stolen from his tax accountants’ offices. These records are potentially very politically sensitive. A ransom of $1 million has been demanded for the materials.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers offices at Franklin, Tennessee were supposedly broken into and Romney’s tax returns copied. The firm denies any evidence of a break in occurring, but as the UK Daily Mail reports that’s not at all clear:
An anonymous posting on a file-sharing website said the returns were stolen on Aug. 25 from the accounting firm's office.
After 'all available 1040 tax forms for Romney were copied,' the posting said, flash drives containing encrypted copies of his pre-2010 tax records were sent to the firm and to Republican and Democratic party offices.
The group threatened to divulge the tax files by late September unless it was paid $1 million.
Packages to that effect with attached thumb drives were delivered to both Republican and Democrat party offices. Both offices turned over the packages to the Secret Service.
Just to confuse the issue, news articles have been simultaneously referring to either a break in at the offices or a hack of the company’s computer servers. Apparently there was a break-in followed by an internet operation.
Mashable.com quotes from the group claiming responsibility:
Mitt Romney’s tax returns are reportedly in the hands of a team of hackers who plan on The group allegedly obtained the files from PricewaterhouseCooper’s Tennessee office on Aug. 25, in what was described on PasteBin as a Mission Impossible-like caper:
Romney’s 1040 tax returns were taken from the PWC office 8/25/2012 by gaining access to the third floor via a gentleman working on the 3rd floor of the building. Once on the 3rd floor, the team moved down the stairs to the 2nd floor and setup shop in an empty office room. During the night, suite 260 was entered, and all available 1040 tax forms for Romney were copied. A package was sent to the PWC on suite 260 with a flash drive containing a copy of the 1040 files, plus copies were sent to the Democratic office in the county and copies were sent to the GOP office in the county at the beginning of the week also containing flash drives with copies of Romney’s tax returns before 2010. A scanned signature image for Mitt Romney from the 1040 forms were scanned and included with the packages, taken from earlier 1040 tax forms gathered and stored on the flash drives.
The files are to be released to the public on Sept. 28, according to the PasteBin document.
Watergate it ain’t, at least not yet, but if you’re thinking a new industry with its own publicity machine has just entered top level politics, you’re not alone.
Don’t celebrate just yet, however. This type of attack won’t produce a race of honest politicians. The fact that politician’s tax and financial records are now on the menu for extortion doesn’t mean the meals will get any tastier. This is a weapon which could be used against anyone, including planting false information on server records. It could also be a bonanza for organised crime and opportunistic hackers.
Politics is synonymous with sleaze. The sleaze has just found a new source of income and a new range of targets. Bernie Madoff, or someone like him, may yet become President. Democracy may be a few clicks from oblivion.
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