By Greg Roumeliotis
NEW YORK, April 2 A blind trust in the name of
Ann Romney, wife of Republican U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt
Romney, was an investor in a fund run by Goldman Sachs Group Inc
that had invested in a media company which critics say
facilitates sex trafficking.
While there is no suggestion the Romneys knew about the
investment, the disclosure highlights the difficulty for
politicians and their families when they invest in blind trusts
that are supposed to protect them from conflicts of interest and
According to an August 2011 financial disclosure report by
the Romneys, Ann Romney's blind trust had an investment valued
between $15,001 and $50,000 in Goldman's GS Capital Partners
Goldman said on Sunday that GS Capital Partners III signed a
deal last Friday to sell its 16 percent stake in Village Voice
Media, which owns the website Backpage.com, back to management.
Critics argue that Backpage.com facilitates the trafficking
of underage prostitutes and sex slaves, although others question
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, stressed that the
funds were managed on a blind basis, "so the trustee, not the
Romneys, make their investment decisions."
"Furthermore, the trustee invests in funds, but, as a
passive investor, has no control over the funds' investments."
Goldman's divestiture is the latest development in a growing
controversy over online adult advertising that has pitted
celebrities, law enforcement officials, members of Congress and
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof against Village Voice
The private media company has the largest share of revenue
in the United States from online advertising of adult services.
It has responded aggressively, challenging critics' data
with editorial investigations and claiming that it
goes to far greater lengths than competitors in cooperating with
law enforcement and monitoring its ads for illegal activity.
The original size and timing of the blind-trust investment
were not disclosed, though in 2007 the Ann Romney trust reported
during Mitt Romney's previous failed attempt to get nominated as
Republican presidential candidate that its investment in the
Goldman fund was then worth between $100,001 and $250,000.
In Ann Romney's 2010 tax return, which was made publicly
available in January, the trust's investment in the Goldman fund
was reported as showing a $28,226 loss.
Goldman could not be immediately reached for comment on
questions about the Ann Romney trust investment.
GS Capital Partners III invested $30 million in the Village
Voice in 2000. This was a fraction of fund's capital, which
totaled $2.78 billion.
Goldman Sachs said the fund lost the vast majority of its
investment when it sold its Village Voice stake last week.