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. Carlos

    Romney should DEMAND that Obama discloses all his college records that he has been hiding. These documents will prove that Obama was admitted into Columbia and Harvard as a foreign student (ie Indonesian). The REAL fraud is Obama not Romney.

    August 17, 2012 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  2. IF YOU SIGNED GROVER'S PLEDGE, YOU ARE A TRAITOR TO THE U.S.

    such as the range in the effective rates paid, the foreign accounts maintained, the foreign investments made, and the types of tax shelters used."
    -----------------------------------------
    That was very honorable of Mr. Messina. They clearly want to put the issue behind them, but there are legitimate questions that the People need answered. His previous financial discolure forms do not match up with his actual taxes. He didn't put on previous financial disclosure forms that he had foreign accounts. That's illegal!!! I can care less about anything else in this campaign. This issue is front and center since we are talking about tax fairness. RELEASE THE RETURNS NOW!!!

    August 17, 2012 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  3. ll

    Remember – Romney did this same exact spiel in Mass. when running for governor. Kept promising those tax returns...never delivered.

    August 17, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  4. John,PA

    (1) Romney has followed the law. Following the law; something Obama needs to do.
    (2) lets look at:
    - First President to apply for college aid as a foreign student, and then deny he was a foreigner.
    - First President to have a social security number from a state he has never lived in.
    - First President to be held in contempt of court for illegally obstructing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
    - First President to require all Americans to purchase a product from a third party.
    - First President to abrogate bankruptcy law to turn over control of companies to his union supporters.
    - First President to by-pass Congress and implement the Dream Act through executive fiat.
    - First President to order a secret amnesty program that stopped the deportation of illegal immigrants across the U.S., including those with criminal convictions.
    - First President to demand a company hand-over $20 billion to one of his political appointees.
    - First President to arbitrarily declare an existing law unconstitutional and refuse to enforce it.

    August 17, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  5. u laby

    Wow. Seems no one on the left is cares about how the economy is doing any more. Thanks CNN.

    August 17, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  6. T'sah From Virginia

    ►Obama camp: Let's make a deal on tax returns◄
    And Romney will still say to America – "that's NOT your concern"
    "I already told you what I paid and I don't care if you believe me or NOT"
    "And trust me – because I'm a LYING Etch-A-Sketching, Whiteboard FLIP-FLOP"

    Show the Returns and let the American people decide!!!

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    August 17, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  7. Jerome

    Romney should offer to release his tax returns if Obama releases his school records.

    August 17, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  8. Wake up People!

    No President Obama, 5 is not nearly enough. We need to see 99-00. The retro Bain years. 12 at least.

    August 17, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  9. Mick

    obama is losing and becoming desperate

    August 17, 2012 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  10. Cryos

    Obama how about you release all your records you ordered sealed like your college records. Until then you can take your "deal" and shove it.

    August 17, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  11. Name Gib Henry

    And where are Obama's college transcripts? Why are the books he authored about himself considered "gospel?"

    August 17, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  12. Lmc2011

    Here's a deal. Romney should show tax returns after Obama releases his college records and passport.

    August 17, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  13. WiredweirdinSF

    He sure can find ways to divert attention from the real issues can't he. Anything but acknowledge that he is an absolute failure and of course the liberally biased media reports every nonsensical utterance he makes rather than pinning him down on the real issues.

    August 17, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  14. Nick

    13%??? According to Jay Leno that's just a tip and a lousy tip at that.

    August 17, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  15. McRCN

    Maybe they could trade that for Harry Reid passing a budget in the Senate? Really, the calls for Romney's tax returns is sounding more the Democrats version of the birther's for the last election cycle.

    August 17, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  16. NameTom W

    Finnet misses the point. The reason for releasing is tax returns is to show his character – that is an issue raised by him and yet, acting like a guilty character, he refuses to let the public see his true character. All middleclass voters should be worried about a multimillionaire candidate who hides behind a smokescreen and takes millions from billionaires who hide behind smokescreens.

    August 17, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  17. A-young-professional

    Nothing more American than dodging taxes and not contributing while us young adults scrape by and don't have that luxury. Mitt Romney really knows the struggles we are having.....Not.

    August 17, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  18. u laby

    This is the lead article on the Politics page?!?!?!? Nope no bias here. Grow up CNN and may people will start caring about you again.

    August 17, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  19. Jon

    Here we are with the Romney campaign actually campaigning on issues while the Obama camp keeps harping on sideshow nonsense. Romney should reply "NUTS!"

    August 17, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  20. P.a

    Romney should deal.... He will release tax returns for Fast and Furious files president locked up and the presidents college transcripts.

    August 17, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  21. gadem

    We already know Romney's answer...."Trust me..."

    August 17, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  22. reginaldb6

    We all know the answer from Romney is no because he is hiding something. ROMNEY RELEASE YOUR TAXES.1111

    August 17, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  23. Lisa M

    This was the best idea yet! You really have to be pressured to follow a tradition your father started, Mitt? Says A LOT about you...I wonder if he is proud of your campaign?

    August 17, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  24. SD

    I think the real reason the issue of Romney's refusal to release his tax returns won't go away is because Romney himself has said that he will pay for his proposed massive tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans by eliminating tax loopholes.

    But which loopholes will Romney eliminate? HE REFUSES TO SAY. Which raises the obvious question: will he close the loopholes that HE uses to hide millions in foreign accounts and offshore tax shelters? Or does he only intend to eliminate deductions and credits that OTHER people use., e.g., the ones that middle-class families rely on?

    This is why Romney's secrecy is so maddening: We have no idea if his tax plan is a shamefully self-serving one that keeps the loopholes used by millionaires like him while cutting the ones used by middle-class families, since he refuses to release his returns (even his 2010 one is incomplete) and since he refuses to say anything SPECIFIC about his tax plan

    August 17, 2012 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  25. nick

    lets see em mitt! what r u hiding?

    August 17, 2012 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
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