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

    How pathetic! We cant discuss real issues?
    This country deserves the government it gets.
    I wish I could leave.
    Romney openly admitted after he got caught that he had lied about declaring Massachusetts as his primary residency on his tax returns while running for Governor of Ma. Chances are he's hiding something now as well. Lying to become a Governor is bad enough. It escalates ten-fold when one adds running for President to the list.

    Five years of tax returns is not asking for the moon. All presidential candidates have released up to five. Obama has released 10.

    Pathetic is allowing someone to lie their way into office.

    August 17, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  2. IDontBelieveIt

    Sorry I'll carry on...........OWN failures. Obama is gambling, but he won't win.
    The fact that Romney WON'T cave [as Obama does when under pressure] is a huge PLUS for Romney – it shows he has backbone!!!!!
    If Mitt presented 20 years of taxes TODAY, Obama and his thugs would say they were doctored!

    If it tiurns out he's got funds abroad---SO WHAT! Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Jeffrey Immelt etc...... etc...... ALL have them and guess what?..................................THEY'RE ALL LEGAL!

    August 17, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  3. John

    I really don't understand the non-release. Must be something in there. I wish I caould pay 13%..

    August 17, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  4. Joe Kenney

    How could I ever vote for Romney? I can't believe this is the best the GOP could come up with. The GOP makes it damn hard to be a supporter for people like me who really want to be.

    August 17, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  5. Jan

    Obama can't talk about his record because he is the biggest failure since Jimmy Carter. All he can do is bash Romney and Ryan. The whitehouse sinks further everytime he opens his mouth.

    August 17, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  6. Lee Korman

    Why are we talking about Mitt's taxes? He is an American success story. You want to see more tax returns? Unseal President Kardasian's transcripts and travel records. Hope and Change....what a joke.

    August 17, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  7. Jeff Caryl

    I worked for a company that Bain Capital purchased and like many other companies under their portfolio they weren't purchased in effort to dismantle the company, but are still in business, thriving and more importantly keeping thousands of people employed. And, who cares how much money Romney as made? It is my hope that our next president will be hell bent on fixing the economy, reducing the size of governent and spending, be concerned with protecting our borders and care less about buying and pandering to ethnic voters.

    August 17, 2012 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  8. apple pie

    Mitt wants to talk about the economy instead? Hmmm. He hasn't so far, so why start now? We know almost dick all about his "plan" because he won't tell us. But most of all, he does NOT want us to see his tax returns. Why not? Would it ruin him?

    It's trust, stupid. Trust. How can anyone trust someone who hides so much, especially if it's his financial dealings.

    August 17, 2012 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  9. callen

    Hey Obama – when are you releasing your college transcripts, etc? I think we're entitled to know what our president studied in college, how he did and what other information might be relevant from all of those formative years (undergrad and law school). What are you hiding?

    August 17, 2012 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  10. Jean

    How about obama showing us his birth certificate and Romney showing his tax returns!

    August 17, 2012 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  11. tom

    It amazes me how many more non-critical thinkers are concerned with what Romney paid in taxes, than they are with how Obama has already wasted theirs. I guess this is what you get from the pay-per-post gang.

    August 17, 2012 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  12. Cedar Rapids

    "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 "

    Romney is starting to crack, he is starting to slowly release information because he feels he has to do something. However, the 'more' he releases whilst at the same time keeping more hidden, the more its going to hurt him.

    August 17, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  13. Ancient Texan

    Avi @ 10:08. 13% Capital Gains Tax on money that has already been taxed once at Regular income levels, before being re- invested and gaining value. Double taxation.

    August 17, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  14. Wilson

    "Give me those tax returns!!""" Thats all Obama's got. The left is sounding so desperate. Their guy is toast. The only chance he had to reduce the size of the spanking he is going to get in November was get rid of Biden and put Hilary on the ticket.

    August 17, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  15. Zeke83

    The Obama camp will do anything to keep the spot light off of Obama's record of failure. Romney already released all the tax records required of him. Is he under investigation by the IRS for tax fraud? No. He paid every single penny of tax that he owed. Who in their right mind would pay more than they owe? Obama didn't. That makes him, and many, many others a hypocrite.

    August 17, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  16. It's the ECONOMY Stup1d

    Maybe Obama can keep his promise "If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition.” Why is he running for reelection?

    August 17, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  17. Trust But Verify

    The only one making this an issue is Romney. Just release the tax returns already! Every candidate has done this in the past! I'm an independent whose undecided right now and Romney's refusal to release his returns makes him look suspicious. The Republican Party is taking a big risk by not letting EVERYTHING come out BEFORE the convention. Don't they want to see who they are backing? If there's nothing wrong with his returns then we can move on with this election.

    But if there is, then the party should be given the opportunity to choose another candidate before the convention or lose this November.

    This is so annoying. He's not giving the people a choice by hiding!

    August 17, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  18. mike

    He wont show them because he probably took advantage of an amnesty program offered by the IRS a few years ago to people like him who have not properly reported money in overseas bank accounts, which, under normal circumstances, would have been considered a felony. This amnesty allowed them to report all this outside income with no felony charges being applied. All this would be shown on these hidden tax reports!

    August 17, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  19. Malory Archer


    I have an idea, why don't you produce a budget for this country, instead of being the first President to NEVER have a budget in place.


    Because it's congress' job to produce a budget. Didn't they teach you that in fourth grade Social Studies?

    August 17, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  20. WR

    Apparently you don't understand the tax code. He doesn't have an "active" job and thus is not part of normal income tax brackets. His income comes from investments which is limited to the capital gains tax rate. In addition, his contributions to charities is tremendous. How much has Obama and Biden collectively given charities? I'd love to see that number.

    August 17, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  21. Anonymous

    What is Romney hiding?

    August 17, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  22. joan

    The tax return issue is important for a number of reasons: 1. it indicates the type of person he is, if he is using all the loopholes available to hide his money and divert it... that does not reflect the type of character I would like to see in a president. 2. he has been planning to run for President for more than 2 years, so naturally he would have been more careful with the last 2 tax returns, it's the ones previous to that which would indicate what type of character he has. Don't say it's his accountants, we all know that people in his position instruct his accountants on what type of structuring to do for his taxes. He is not stupid. 3. I personally do not trust his at all. the only part of society he would take care of is the corporate part. We can reduce the deficit without making the poor poorer.

    August 17, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  23. Big G

    Keep drinking the cool-aid. Obama is a snake oil salesman and should get an Oscar for his performance !

    August 17, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  24. publisher5

    What on earth is Romney hiding?

    August 17, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  25. Raj

    To all the Romney Supporters!! Yes, definitely Romeny is a great businessman! No doubt! But please don't think that businessman would create jobs for you!!!!! He will not! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Businessmen give a DAM! about creating jobs! They care about making profit and more profit! And the profit is made when job is sent oversees where labour is cheap! They could do it because the law written by these businessmen allow them to do so! We don't need a businessman or a supporters of businessman in the White house! So, you can praise about Romney all day long but for God's sake dont say he will be good for job creationg! He is a salesman! He will tell whatever it takes to make the sale done! Dont you understand?

    August 17, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
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