Controversial: Publisher Larry Flynt has been in and out of the headlines throughout his career. <em>*AFP photo</em>
Controversial: Publisher Larry Flynt has been in and out of the headlines throughout his career. *AFP photo

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 12: Publisher and free speech activist Larry Flynt has offered Bermudians up to $1 million to strip bare Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s investments on the island.

Mr Flynt, pictured right, the publisher of adult magazine Hustler, made the offer because he is convinced Mr Romney has undisclosed business interests offshore.

Mark Johnson, the editorial director of Mr Flynt’s publishing company LFP, told the Sun yesterday: “We would love to work with the people of Bermuda. The President of the United States has an influence on every country in the world and who is President will affect Bermuda as well.”

A full-page advertisement in today’s Bermuda Sun appeals for “information about Mitt Romney’s unreleased tax returns and/or details of his offshore assets, bank accounts and business partnerships”.

And it asks: “What is he hiding?”

Mr Johnson said the advert — which has already run in the US in USA Today and The Washington Post — will also be published in Switzerland and other jurisdictions in a bid to gain full disclosure of Mr Romney’s finances.

The spotlight turned on Bermuda in July after it emerged that Mr Romney has offshore accounts, including a shell company in Bermuda.

The Bermuda-based Santaky High Yield Assets Investors, which recently posted earnings of nearly $2 million, was transferred to a blind trust in Mr Romney’s wife’s name in 2003, just before he became Governor of Massachussets.

The company did not appear on Mr Romney’s disclosure forms until he released his 2010 tax returns during the Republican presidential primaries.

Supporters of Democrat President Barack Obama queued up to condemn the offshore interests, which cut his tax bill in the US.

There is, however, no suggestion that Mr Romney, who also has business interests in the Caymans and Switzerland, has done anything illegal.

Asked whom he was targeting with the ad, Mr Johnson said: “We want to talk to anyone who has information. There are many people who work in areas that can help — accountants, traders, lawyers, fund managers and brokers — who have access to this kind of information.

“We believe no one should have anything to hide, especially if you are running for the highest office in the land.

“Whoever can legally give us the information, we would love to hear it. We welcome any information — please call or e-mail us if you have any information. This is in the interest of free information.

“That’s what we are interested in, what is undisclosed, what is out there. He has released some information, but we are guessing that’s the tip of the iceberg.”

He added: “The US taxpayer is paying their fair share — Romney is not paying his fair share. We want to find out as much as possible so the American people have the facts, so they know who they are voting for and can make a fair decision.

And he stressed: “We are not looking to do anything illegal or encouraging anyone to do anything illegal.”

Mr Johnson said it would be up to Mr Flynt to decide if the $1 million was to be paid in a lump sum to one individual, or split up among several informants.

He added: “That’s a call he will make when he evaluates the information and negotiates with the source.”

Mr Johnson said LFP had received “a flood” of calls and e-mails after the ads ran in US newspapers.

He added: “It’s been of varying quality, as you might expect. Right now, we’re sifting through the information to find potential leads.”

The appeal came after the Republican Party backed a crackdown on the porn industry at its national convention in Tampa, Florida, last month.

Erotic content

When asked, Mr Johnson conceded some people might be put off by Mr Flynt’s links to the porn industry, which also includes a movie arm.

Mr Johnson said: “We don’t find anything wrong with what we are doing and we understand that erotic content is controversial and always will be.

“But Larry Flynt has a very strong interest in freedom of speech and freedom of information. It’s all about freedom of speech and information, whether it’s erotic content or the political discourse Larry Flynt engages in regularly.”

Mr Flynt, 69, last year offered $1 million to anyone who could prove they had had a sexual relationship with Texas governor Rick Perry after he joined the Republican primary race. The appeal uncovered no legitimate information.

In 1996, Mr Flynt was the subject of a biographical drama film, The People vs. Larry Flynt, about his rise as a pornographic magazine publisher and his subsequent clash with the law. Directed by Miloš Forman, the film starred Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, and Edward Norton.

The Bermuda Sun reached out yesterday to the Republican National Committee in Washington DC for comment on the advertisements, but we had received no response by press time.