In the 28-minute video "When Mitt Romney Came to Town" -- an attack on the Republican presidential candidate’s experiences with the private-equity firm Bain Capital -- an unidentified former employee of a company bought by Bain recalls the hardship that followed the firm’s acquisition.
"That hurts so bad to leave my home because of one man that's got 15 homes," the woman says.
Does Mitt Romney really own 15 homes?
We began by asking Rick Tyler, a spokesman for Winning Our Future, the super PAC behind the ad. Tyler is a former longtime spokesman for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- a rival of Romney’s in the GOP presidential primary -- but Winning Our Future is by law unaffiliated with Gingrich’s presidential campaign.
Tyler wrote back to us to say, "We don’t make any claim about how many homes Mitt Romney owns."
But at PolitiFact, we do hold politicians -- and super PACs -- accountable for the claims they make to the public. The speaker may have been using a bit of rhetorical excess, but the filmmakers -- in an ad paid for by the Winning Our Future -- chose to air the claim and not dispute it, so we consider it fair game for fact-checking.
We did a nationwide database search of real estate transactions, deeds and tax records. Initially, our search turned up 16 addresses affiliated in recent years with Mitt Romney or his wife, Ann. But further research enabled us to rule out the bulk of these because they either had been sold or because they represented commercial properties rather than residences.
We were left with three properties that appear to be residences currently owned by Mitt Romney or his wife:
• A home in La Jolla, Calif., an affluent ocean front neighborhood adjoining San Diego, Calif. This property, bought by the couple in 2008 for $12 million and assessed at $8.7 million in 2010, has been the subject of news reports that the Romneys plan to tear down the existing house and undertake a significant expansion. We will address that issue in a separate fact check.
• A condominium in Ann Romney’s name in Belmont, Mass., assessed at $773,000.
• A home in Wolfeboro, N.H., on Lake Winnipesaukee, assessed at $4.3 million. Ann Romney is listed as the owner of the 2.3-acre property, purchased for $2.5 million in 1997. A second, 6.3-acre property nearby, also in Ann Romney’s name, appears to be a combination boathouse and stable with living quarters. It is assessed at $2.5 million. News reports indicate that the Romneys upgraded their Wolfeboro property with tennis courts and other amenities.
The Romney campaign did not comment to PolitiFact on the number of houses the family owns.
Winning Our Future released a video in which an interviewee said Mitt Romney owns 15 homes. We find that while the Romney family does own three houses collectively valued at nearly $20 million, but based on the public records we've reviewed they don't own anything close to 15 homes. We rate the statement False.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The day after this story was posted, a reader pointed us to a Jan. 14, 2012, article in the Toronto Star that noted that the Romney family owns "a white-sided cottage on a sandy ridge overlooking Lake Huron" in Grand Bend, Ontario – a property purchased in 1950 by Mitt Romney’s father George that did not come up in our search of United States properties. This does not increase the number of Romney-owned homes close enough to 15 for us to change our rating.