Obama camp: Let's make a deal on tax returns. Romney camp: No.
August 17th, 2012
07:46 AM ET
2 years ago

Obama camp: Let's make a deal on tax returns. Romney camp: No.

(CNN) – President Barack Obama's campaign sought to turn up the pressure Friday on Mitt Romney to release his tax returns, offering to back off on their calls for the release of additional years of returns if he agrees to disclose five years of tax information.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina offered the deal in a letter sent to Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades. The Obama campaign posted the letter on its web site and emailed it to journalists.

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"If the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more–neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign," Messina wrote. His offer did not include a promise to avoid attacking Romney on the contents of any new returns, or make any commitments for independent third party groups.

A rejection of the Obama team's offer of a deal came from Rhoades came less than two hours later.

"Thanks for the note," Rhoades wrote. "It is clear that President Obama wants nothing more than to talk about Governor Romney's tax returns instead of the issues that matter to voters, like putting Americans back to work, fixing the economy and reining in spending."

Rhoades wrote that Messina and his campaign could continue talking about Romney's tax returns - but that his team would focus on the economy.

"If Governor Romney's tax returns are the core message of your campaign, there will be ample time for President Obama to discuss them over the next 81 days," Rhoades wrote. "In the meantime, Governor Romney will continue to lay out his plans for a stronger middle class, to save Medicare, to put work back into welfare, and help the 23 million Americans struggling to find work in the Obama economy."

The "offer" comes one day after Romney told reporters that he paid no less that 13% of his income in taxes for the past decade – a new revelation in a battle over the presumptive GOP nominee's personal tax information. Romney has released his return from 2010 and an estimate from 2011. He has pledged to release the full 2011 return once it's completed by his accountant. He filed for an extension on filing his 2011 return from the Internal Revenue Service in April.

Democrats have criticized Romney for not releasing more information about his taxes, arguing that voters are entitled to a greater amount of disclosure from candidates running for president. Some Republicans have also called on Romney to release more of his returns, saying the political headache could be easily ended by simply putting out additional information.

Romney and his campaign have consistently rebuffed those calls, however, saying the two years they've released go beyond the legal requirement, and offer voters a good perspective into the candidate's financial background.

In his letter Friday, Messina painted Romney's refusal to release more returns as stemming from political trepidation, which he said could be put to rest with his offer.

"This request for the release of five years, covering the complete returns for 2007-2012, is surely not unreasonable," Messina wrote, pointing out that Romney's father George, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination ahead of the 1968 election, released more than a decade's worth of returns.

"In the Governor's case, a five year release would appropriately span all the years that he has been a candidate for President," Messina wrote. "It would also help answer outstanding questions raised by the one return he has released to date, such as the range in the effective rates paid, the foreign accounts maintained, the foreign investments made, and the types of tax shelters used."

A CNN/ORC Poll taken August 7-8 showed 63% of voters thought Romney should release additional years of tax returns. Among independents, 67% said the Republican candidate should release more years of returns.

On Thursday, Romney dismissed the questions on his tax returns as a distraction from bigger issues, and reiterated his refusal to release any additional documents.

"Given the challenges that America faces – 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, 1 out of 6 Americans in poverty – the fascination with taxes I paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face," Romney said in South Carolina.

In declaring he's paid more than 13% in taxes, Romney is describing his effective tax rate, the percentage of his actual income he gave to the federal government. Over the past two years, Romney's effective tax rate was 14.5%, based on the records he's revealed already.

Romney's financial disclosures suggest his net worth is as high as $264 million, making him one of the wealthiest candidates in history to seek the U.S. presidency.

CNN's Rachel Streitfeld and CNNMoney's Jennifer Liberto contributed to this report.

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Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama • Taxes
soundoff (1,465 Responses)
  1. Tyrone J

    Nobody understand why this is important... It shows that he is not in touch with the reality that real americans face. He is already paying less than 13% in taxes and wish to be presenting to give himself and others like him a bigger tax cut so they can actually pay as little as 5% in taxes... This is not so that companies will have more money and profit to create jobs.... Its so he can buy a bigger Mansion and buy more luxury items for himself... The rich never trickle down money and hire more employees.. His true plan is to remove taxing on money made overseas completely.. Sure they will create more jobs, but they will not be here in the U.S.A.. They will be overseas to increase profit and have tax free income... Do you know that anyone that has business overseas or work overseas can get what is called Foreign Income Exclusion which is 92,000 dollars tax free income.. So if you make 80K in foreign income it is tax exempt.. By eliminating the foreign taxable income all together they will make billions and not pay a dime in taxes and they will ship all jobs overseas because they can make huge profits and never pay taxes in the income...

    August 18, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. MrRickinNH

    Its pretty easy to read between the lines and realize that Mr. Romney feels he would get hurt more by releasing previous tax records! So what is he hiding that would hurt him more... That question needs to be answered or he will loose votes every day!

    August 18, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  3. Independente

    Simple logic says Mr. Romney is definetely hiding something. Obama camp knows excatly what he is hiding but because of privacy laws they cannot reveal it. He probably received tax amnesty in the last 5 years and is ashamed it will come out. Ok we should talk about the issues, but there is a saying that "he who lies to get the job will lie on the job."

    August 18, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  4. Gerry Daley

    What is he so afraid of? If there's nothing there, why is he hiding them?

    August 18, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  5. r hurley

    A former classmate has added a tantalizing question to the mysteries surrounding Barack Obama's college years. Perhaps the GOP nominee, whose tax records are demanded, should call the president's bluff. He has refused to release his records so maybe a trade is in order.

    August 18, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  6. government cheese

    I paid 8% last year in taxes. Anyone that pays more than he legally has to is a sucker!

    August 18, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. Txpharm

    I couldn't care less about Romneys taxes. He's rich. Get over it. I want my recent college graduates to GET JOBS and pay reasonable tax rates, not bankroll Boomers 300% return on their Medicare taxes.

    August 18, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  8. Gop 1

    I will not vote for Romney unless he shows us his tax returns.He has shown us he is hiding something and I will not vote a dishonest man into office. How could the gop let such shallow man be our candidate.Let this be a lesson to the gop,and not let such a shallow candidate represent us.

    August 18, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  9. GetRidofParties

    Everyone wants to pay as little taxes as possible. Don't blame one person for his % of taxes. Blame the tax system loopholes. You can have a realistic tax rate if you get rid of loophole. 40% is absurd to take from anyone, even a Warren Buffett. If he wants to volunteer it, good for him, but until you can rule our wasteful spending and fraud, taxes should not go up. $5 billion in fraudulent tax refunds to criminals, really! Let's raise taxes to cover that. Great idea.

    August 18, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  10. Jonathan

    It's a question of character and integrity. I'm everyone would like to move on to the bigger issues but Mitt unfortunately we can't because we all have this little nagging voice in the back of our heads saying that you are trying to hide something.and until you can't put our minds at ease and we all feel confident that you aren't trying to be dishonest with the American public we can't really have a discussion with you about the important issues because we all have in the back of our minds that this guy is just not being honest with us in terms of everything that comes out his mouth. This could end tomorrow Mitt and we can go back to discussing the important issue. The questions are not going to go away. Just release the tax returns. if you did nothing wrong then what is the problem?

    August 18, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  11. GetRidofParties

    Blame the tax system and loopholes and stop worrying about one person's taxes. He probably did what everyone does which is to use pay as little as possible that is legal.

    August 18, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  12. Jonathan

    The #1 rule of any battle is that you never, ever fight the other guy's fight. You get that person to fight your fight. Unfortunately Mitt can't seem or doesn't want to stop trying to Obama's fight on Obama's terms. Unless he can change it around on him quick and put Obama on the defensive then he has already lost and I don't care who his VP pick is. How much to VP's having anything to do with shaping policy? Absolutely none. They are there for photo ops and to greet Ambassadors from foreign countries. They have no power or say in an administration...well except for Dick Cheney.

    August 18, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. BobPlanet

    Okay, can we have two years of Obama's college records?

    August 18, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. cobra

    The left keeping asking about Romney's tax records is pure stupidity. I could not care less about his tax papers or obama's tax papers. There is much more important things that need attention instead of spending time with that kind of stupid rhetoric. There is no doubt that the IRS has already checked and recheck all the tax return so the left should be on obama to do something about his crazy spending and how about the giving of technical amnesty to millions of illegals.

    August 18, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. Mike Texoma

    This whole thing is about taxes, bottom line. Romney's proposed budget does not begin to balance the budget for 50 years. And Ryan's does not balance the budget for 20 or 30 years. It is all about taxes. If we use

    August 18, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
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