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Opinion: Mitt Romney The Cigarette Peddler

The Buck Starts Here

The Huffington Post investigative team broke an important story about Mitt Romney and his work with Bain & Company. It turns out that Mitt Romney made millions and saved the company he was running by peddling cigarettes in the former Soviet Union and in the United States in the early 90s.

Mitt left Bain Capital to lead Bain & Company from disaster. One of the ways he infused the company with cash was by pushing tobacco.

According to the reporting, "In 1992, Bain approached British American Tobacco – the international conglomerate behind Kool, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall and Benson & Hedges – offering a lucrative partnership in Russia. It worked."

Romney was already familiar with the tobacco industry, the industry giant Phillip Morris was a domestic client.

Bain and Romney's work with BAT was lucrative for all involved. BAT, previously on the sidelines of the Russian market, now controls about a quarter of the Russian cigarette market.

Romney's Russian relationships should waive some serious red flags.

As should his willingness to push tobacco.

Smoking and cancer rates in Russia are alarming. Twenty two percent of Russian women are smokers and more than 60 percent of men smoke. These numbers are both higher than the rates of the early 90s when Romney helped push cigarette makers into the country.

Today over 400,000 Russians die of smoking related illnesses.

So after the Soviet Union crumbled, maybe Mitt thought he'd finish off the Russians with lung cancer? Is that his foreign policy calling card? Nicotine addiction?

The work of Bain & Company and Mitt Romney also helped consolidate a massive amount of wealth in the hands of a few Russian oligarchs.

Given his relationship with the oligarchs and the massive wealth he created for himself, his company and the Russian oligarchs you have to look at his claim that Russia is our "biggest threat" in a new light.

Does Mitt Romney have friends in Russia that would like to see a new U.S. foreign policy toward that nation. Would Romney and his heirs personally profit from a new Russia policy?

These are the kind of questions that always lurk under the surface when it comes to Romney and foreign policy.

One of the biggest problems that Americans should have with Mitt Romney is the massive number of foreign entanglements he brings with him.

He makes millions every year from foreign income, yet we do not know who provides that income, what generates the income or what is expected of Mitt Romney in exchange for the millions in foreign money.

Tobacco is but one of the sources of his wealth, but many other relationships are hidden. It is not a mystery that American voters should accept from a presidential nominee.

About Bill Buck

Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist, President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC, and Managing Director of the online ad firm Influence DSP. He has over twenty years of international and national communications experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.


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