Does Romney Have an In-Law Problem?

ABC News
Does Romney Have an In-Law Problem?
.

View photo

Mitt Romney's rise in business and politics has served as a marketing bonanza for two of his wife's closest relatives, both Utah-based businessmen who have benefited from, and are said to have traded on, their connection to the presidential candidate even as they suffered a succession of embarrassing business and legal difficulties.

Ann Romney's brother Roderick Davies, who filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and nephew Ryan Davies, who oversaw a now-bankrupt green energy venture, have both been out on the campaign trail to offer support for Romney. But back in Utah, the two men have left a trail of unhappy business partners, a number of whom spoke with ABC News to express concern about how the two might try and capitalize on a Romney presidency.

Andy Neff, a Florida financial advisor who says he lost a top client and his own savings investing in Ryan Davies's ill-fated solar energy venture, said Davies repeatedly assured him that his famous uncle Mitt was mentoring him, right up until his company filed for bankruptcy.

"To be quite honest with you," Neff said, "if you're running for President of the United States, you should probably make sure all your family's doing the right, ethical things with people, and not taking advantage of hardworking guys like me and taking my money."

The two have been said to tout their family connections when courting business partners – Neff noted that Ryan Davies once told him a potential investor was welcome to stay at Mitt Romney's Park City mansion (though she never did) when she traveled to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. Davies also told potential clients in a public presentation that Romney's son Josh was a vice president of his Utah clean energy company, Renewable Energy Development Company (REDCO).

After ABC News emailed a question to the Romney campaign about Josh Romney's role in REDCO, Davies phoned to say he had made a mistake.

"That was more of my wish than what actually happened," Ryan Davies said. "Josh had no role in REDCO. I shouldn't have said that he did."

A few shaky branches on the family tree is nothing new in presidential politics. Bill Clinton's brothers-in-law contributed a stream of unflattering headlines during his tenure, and Neil Bush, Billy Carter and Donald Nixon all found notoriety when their brothers moved into the White House.

ABC News attempted to contact Roderick Davies, both at listed phone numbers and through the campaign, but was unable to reach him. ABC News spoke briefly to Ryan Davies last week as he sought to clarify Josh Romney's role in his company, but he did not respond to messages left this week to follow up.

Romney's campaign would not discuss his efforts to help his in-laws with their various business ventures, but through interviews and public records, ABC News has found ample evidence that the presidential candidate made repeated efforts to assist them, even if those efforts sometimes ended badly.

In January, The Wall Street Journal reported on Romney's push to have Bain Capital invest in an off-beat company that wanted to sell customized dolls designed to look like the children who bought them. The company, Lifelike Co., called the dolls "My Twinn." In 1996, Bain invested $2.1 million in Lifelike Co. and Romney took a seat on the company's board. Soon after, Roderick Davies was hired and became a vice president. Kenneth Thiess, former CEO of Lifelike, said in an interview that Davies told prospective suppliers that, through him, they were establishing a link to a future President of the United States.

Davies left the company in 2003 and became embroiled in a caustic legal imbroglio with the company's other managers -- with them accusing Davies of trying to steal their idea and start a rival doll company. The case was suspended when Lifelike declared bankruptcy in 2004.

Davies told the Journal the accusations against him were "spurious," adding: "When a company fails, there's a lot of finger pointing."

Bain also invested in a troubled internet start-up that employed Ryan Davies from 1997 to 2001, a Utah-based firm called Found Inc. that struggled and was later purchased by another firm. In a biographical write-up Davies published as promotional material for another venture, he said he helped Found Inc. raise "over $46 million in private equity from Bain Capital, Accel Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Sun Microsystems and others."

Romney's in-laws continued to find opportunities in their famous relative's orbit. While he headed the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, the organization hired a start-up company that Ryan Davies helped oversee, called 02 Blue. The company helped buy and sell mobile emissions credits, and Davies told ABC News he hoped the work for the Olympics would put his company on the map. It didn't -- the company shut its doors not long after. Davies told ABC News that he landed the Olympics contract without his uncle's help. "This is not anything I went directly to him about," he said.

When Romney made his first bid for president in 2007, his campaign hired Rod Davies's importing company, Asian Sources LLC, to supply bobblehead dolls crafted in the candidate's likeness. Federal Election Commission records show the campaign paid Asian Sources $30,000, according to a review by the Center for Responsive Politics. Top Romney fundraiser Spencer Zwick signed letters that accompanied the dolls when they were sent out to scores of donors "as a token of our appreciation." Zwick called the bobblehead doll a "can't-get-it-in-stores" collectable.

Roderick Davies identifies himself on an online resume as heading business development for the green energy firm his son Ryan launched in 2008, called REDCO. Ryan was apparently quick to tout his Romney connections, even when no family help was forthcoming, according to Davies' former clients and investors. REDCO's business was to fund alternative energy projects, such as wind and solar generating plants. In 2009, Davies traveled to the small Mojave Desert town of Needles, Calif., to pitch city officials on a new method of converting the sun's rays into electricity. It was in a slide presentation to the Needles council, obtained from the city through a public records request, that Davies identified Josh Romney as the vice president of business development for his Utah firm.

One top Needles official told ABC News that Davies repeatedly referenced his ties to Mitt Romney, and those connections brought Davies credibility.

"It was my personal hope that if we built this, that [Mitt] Romney would come out here and help get politicians here to draw attention to it so we could build more like it, but obviously, that never happened," the official said, asking that his name not be used because the city signed an agreement not to disparage REDCO and he did not have permission to speak publicly about the matter.

Davies also touted Josh Romney's purported involvement in an August 17, 2009 email to investors, obtained by ABC News, saying Romney would be the company's "business development advisor." Andy Neff, a boyhood friend of Davies, said he put $150,000 of his own money into REDCO with the impression that Mitt Romney himself might be looking over Davies's shoulder. Neff also said he persuaded one of his biggest clients to invest far more than $600,000, saying that he didn't think "my client would have even spoken to him if he wasn't associated with Mitt Romney."

"It's kind of like, how can you go wrong when someone like that is watching over their nephew?" Davies said.

The Needles project was intended to be one of REDCO's biggest payoffs. The idea was to fill dozens of acres of Mojave Desert land with giant towers, each topped with an array of molded plastic panes that were intended to act as a sort of solar collection panel. The technology was the brainchild of a self-trained Utah inventor named Neldon Johnson, who once described his creations as divinely inspired. Davies can be seen on video recordings of Needles City Council meetings touting the technology as cutting edge, and promising the city will be out in front.

"We will have some pretty big cranes out here for awhile," Davies told the council, promising during one council meeting that construction on the towers would be starting soon.

In 2009, the city signed a power purchase agreement with REDCO. But the towers never arrived, and the deal ultimately fell apart.

What went wrong remains unclear. Johnson, the inventor behind the technology, told ABC News he still believes it would have worked. He blames Davies for failing to lure enough investment to see the project through to completion. He said he had always hoped that Davies' ties to Romney would one day put his invention on the map.

"When you have a good name in the family, we felt like it would be a good connection for us," Johnson said. "If it developed into a positive relationship with Ryan, it could bleed over into other relationships with the Romneys, you know?"

Davies told ABC News the problem was with the technology's high cost. As the price of the solar towers rose, he said, the financials showed the project would be "under water before it ever started."

Needles officials told ABC News that they walked away from the experience with serious doubts about both the technology and Davies. And at a time when the city was already severely strapped financially, officials there said the city had to eat roughly $100,000 in costs associated with the failed REDCO deal, mostly legal expenses.

Earlier this year, REDCO filed for bankruptcy. In June, a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee filed a court action demanding that Davies return $179,000 he allegedly borrowed from the company. The money took the form of what the bankruptcy trustee called "cash disbursements lacking support" from company accounts. Former company attorney Sean McBride said Davies "had improperly taken the money." On Dec. 16, 2011, after company board members discovered the spending, McBride said Davies was required to sign a promissory note pledging to repay the money.

Utah-based freelance researcher Lynn Packer contributed reporting to this story.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Theories About What May Have Happened To Sherri Papini

      Shasta County police have so far found no leads that could shed light on the motive behind the California mother's kidnapping.

      International Business Times
    • Boeing responds after Trump knocks contract for Air Force One jets

      Donald Trump declared Tuesday morning that the Air Force should cancel its contract with Boeing to build two new presidential airplanes, asserting that the agreement had a $4 billion price tag. “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. It’s not clear how Trump, who frequently tweets exaggerated or baseless claims, arrived at that number.

      Yahoo News
    • Let's Get Ready to Roo-ble! Kangaroo Gripping Dog in Chokehold Is Punched in the Face by Hunter

      Surprisingly, the entire event came to be as a final wish to a terminal teen suffering from a rare form of bone cancer.

      Inside Edition
    • If you’re thinking about buying an Apple Watch, today is the day to do it

      The Apple Watch might not be the smash hit that Wall Street analysts guessed it would be, but it's still the most popular smart watch in the world by a landslide. In fact, during its first year on the market, the Apple Watch became the number 2 best-selling watch brand on the planet behind only Rolex. That's a pretty amazing feat for a device in such a new category, and now is your chance to see what all the fuss is about. Amazon has a big sale going for one day only, and it knocks $80 off a stainless steel 38mm Apple Watch with a Sport band, or $90 off a stainless steel 42mm Apple Watch with a Classic Buckle leather band. These prices are unbeatable, and they're only available on Tuesday. We're talking about the Series 1 watches here, just to be clear. If you want a taste of the stainless Apple Watch without spending too much cash though, this is the perfect way to get it. The only difference between Series 1 and Series 2 Apple Watches is the speed, and it's really not too big a deal for a device where all of your interactions are only supposed to last for a few seconds. The most important new Apple Watch feature this year is water-resistance, and these Series 1 Apple Watches are both water-resistant. Also, note that the smaller 38mm model is refurbished. The larger 42mm Apple Watch Series 1 is brand new. Here are the models on sale on Amazon today: Apple Watch 38mm Stainless Steel Case w/ Black Sport Band This Certified Refurbished product has been tested and certified to work and look like new, with minimal to no signs of wear, by a specialized third-party seller approved by Amazon. The product is backed by a minimum 90-day warranty, and may arrive in a generic brown or white box. Accessories may be generic and not directly from the manufacturer. Operating System: watchOS 2, Chipset: Apple S1, Processor: 520 MHz, GPU: PowerVR SGX543 Internal Memory: 8GB, 512MB RAM Up to 18 Hours of All-Day Battery Life, Up to 3 hours Talk Time; About 1.5 hours to 80% Charge Time, About 2.5 hours to 100% Charge Time IPX7 Ceritified - Water Resistant up to 1 meter and 30 minutes Apple Watch 42mm Stainless Steel Case w/ Black Classic Buckle 1.65-inch AMOLED Capacitive Touchscreen, 390 x 312 pixels + Sapphire Crystal Glass Operating System: watchOS 2, Chipset: Apple S1, Processor: 520 MHz, GPU: PowerVR SGX543 Internal Memory: 8GB, 512MB RAM Heart Rate Sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Ambient Light Sensor Up to 18 Hours of All-Day Battery Life, Up to 3 hours Talk Time; About 1.5 hours to 80% Charge Time, About 2.5 hours to 100% Charge Time

      BGR News
    • Sherri Papini Returns Home, But Questions Abound

      More than a month after she went missing, the story of the abducted mother who was found tied up on the side of a highway on Thanksgiving Day has captivated the nation.

      International Business Times
    • Boy, 16, Charged After Remains of Teen Missing for 3 Weeks Found Along Alaska Roadside

      Remains believed to be those of David Grunwald were found Friday near the town of Palmer.

      Inside Edition
    • Hundreds Protest White Nationalist at Texas A&M University

      A visit by a white nationalist ended in a fracas at Texas A&M.

      ABC News Videos
    • Sherri Papini, Family Move To Undisclosed Location

      An investigation is ongoing into the kidnapping of the California mother who was found heavily battered on Thanksgiving Day morning.

      International Business Times
    • Ohio lawmakers pass 'heartbeat' abortion legislation

      Ohio lawmakers approved a bill that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks after conception, clearing the way for one of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the United States if it becomes law. The Republican-led state House of Representatives and Senate passed the so-called "heartbeat" measure late on Tuesday, sending it to be signed into law by Republican Governor John Kasich. Kasich, an abortion opponent, has in the past questioned whether such legislation would be constitutional.

      Reuters
    • Former Oklahoma state trooper sentenced to 8 years in prison

      SAPULPA, Okla. (AP) — A former Oklahoma state trooper accused of sexually assaulting women during traffic stops was sentenced Tuesday to more than eight years in prison after pleading guilty to lesser charges.

      Associated Press
    • Michigan recount now in doubt; Pennsylvania sets hearing

      DETROIT (AP) — Michigan's presidential recount suddenly became in doubt Tuesday as a state appeals court said the Green Party candidate's poor showing disqualified her from seeking a second look at the votes.

      Associated Press
    • Traffic Stop for Speeding Turns Into Kidnapping of Sheriff's Deputy: Cops

      A traffic stop for speeding ended with multiple charges, including kidnapping an officer.

      Inside Edition
    • Get ready for a limited NES Classic Edition sale tomorrow morning

      It's basically impossible to find a NES Classic Edition for $60 right now, unless you or someone you've recently bribed works in inventory management at Target. Walmart, Best Buy and anyone else you'd think of as selling the games console are out of stock online, and the limited stock that trickles into physical retails stores is being gobbled up before they even make it to the shelves. But at the eleventh hour before Christmas, one highly unlikely retailer might save your day/holiday gifting plans: Urban Outfitters. DON'T MISS:  Galaxy Note 7 fires were caused by over-ambitious design, engineers find The store known for selling painfully hipster record players and "ironic" Polaroids will have a limited-stock, online-only sale of the NES Classic Edition starting tomorrow morning. We don't yet have a precise time, but Urban Outfitters told  BGR  it will be sometime Tuesday AM. If I were a guessing man, I'd say the likeliest times would be 12:01AM, and something like 7, 8 or 9AM in the morning, just as physical stores open/the IT guy clicks "go" in an office somewhere. In the absence of perfect information, I'd recommend using a service like Visualping  to keep an eye on Urban Outfitter's tech page , so that when the site gets updated with a new product, you'll get pinged with an email. The good thing about this Urban Outfitter sale is that unlike the stock releases from Walmart and Target, not too many people seem to know about it. Add that to the uncertain release timing, and this could be your best chance to get a console before Christmas. Years of experience with buying concert tickets has taught me the best strategies for making sure you get your hands on a console. Make sure you set up an account beforehand and that you're logged in, to speed through checkout. You'll also want to have more than one computer on hand, so you can keep hitting refresh on multiple devices to get the best chance. If possible, rope a couple friends into the plan; bribe with the promise of Super Mario parties where necessary.

      BGR News
    • Car and Driver
    • Amazon opens line-free grocery store in challenge to supermarkets

      Amazon.com Inc said on Monday it has opened a brick-and-mortar grocery store in Seattle without lines or checkout counters, kicking off new competition with supermarket chains. Amazon Go, the online shopping company's new 1,800-square-foot (167-square-meter) store, uses sensors to detect what items shoppers have picked off the shelves and sends a bill to their Amazon accounts if they do not replace them. The store marks Amazon's latest push into groceries, one of the biggest retail categories it has yet to master.

      Reuters
    • 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack (33 photos)

      On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, a Sunday, Japanese bombers flew across Oahu, Hawaii, and began their assault. The attack killed more than 2,300 people, nearly half of them on the battleship USS Arizona. More than 1,100 were injured. After the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a speech before Congress, calling Dec. 7 a “date which will live in infamy.” The U.S. declared war against Japan. (AP) Dec. 7, 2016, marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Here’s a look back at that fateful day. See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr .  

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • Nearly 2 Million Pounds Of Poultry Have Been Recalled

      The USDA has reissued a recall made on an assortment of ready-to-eat poultry products.

      International Business Times
    • Trooper responding to call of erratic driver killed by him

      MILLVILLE, N.J. (AP) — A recently married rookie state trooper responding to an emergency call about an erratic driver was killed in a violent wreck on a highway when the erratic driver, traveling in the opposite direction, crossed a grassy median and slammed into his marked cruiser head-on, authorities said.

      Associated Press
    • Photos of the day — December 5, 2016 (20 photos)

      A street actor dressed as a devil frightens children in downtown Prague on the eve of St. Nicholas in the Czech Republic; military veterans huddle together to hold a United States flag against strong winds during a march to a closed bridge outside the Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D.; and Civil Defense members look for survivors under rubble of damaged buildings after air strikes on the northern neighborhood of Idlib city, Syria. (AP/Reuters) These are just a few of the photo of the day for December 5, 2016. See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr .

      Yahoo News Photo Staff