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. Anonymous

    taxes returns for college transcript?

    August 17, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. John

    So he says he will work across the isle and we are supposed to beleive that too? Here is your fist chance to prove it and you FAILED! Republicans need to be the ones who should be worried. What if there is a Felony Tax evasion that Romeny got ammunity from for testifying against one of his companies that was convited of tax fraud? THe Obama administration aready knows what the big secret is, they are just waiting until it is to late for the republicans to do anything about it.

    August 17, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  3. Chris

    Can the media focus on more relevant issues... such as Obama's record?

    August 17, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  4. marisombra

    fast and furious documents ? solybdra documents? school records?

    August 17, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  5. John

    They all talk about what the Prs promised..if congress would get of thier a...something might have been accomplish. They help very litttle. Without them it won't matter who wins the top office. The fighting reminds me of Reagan against Tip O'neal..remember

    August 17, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  6. ptny

    Let's make a deal" So appropriate.

    John Stewart had a funny one. Pick Obama or pick the Romney Mystery Box hiding behind door 2.

    August 17, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  7. Howie

    I am sure Mr. Romney has a large group of CPA and lawyers who prepare his taxes annually. With all of his investments and large portfolio, if they were to error on any parts of those returns the IRS would be all over them like a wet blanket. Tax returns are private by law and if he feels not to release them, that is his decision. There is nothing wrong with that in my opinion. At least he PAID his taxes. And if they used every loophole in the tax code to help par down his tax payments, then good for them. They did the job they were hired to do. Is it's their or Mr. Romney's fault for using the system to their advantage? Again I say no. The did not write the tax laws / code. I would bet the current President's tax preparers have been doing the same thing. Member's of Congress even more so, and none of them are willing to post 10 yrs of returns. So enough already, lets get back on how to save this country and end the piss and moaning about returns.

    August 17, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  8. skybill40

    If Obama "released" his college transcripts they'd be as fraudulent as that birth certificate, I'm sure. There's clearly something on them he does NOT want anyone to see, else he would not be spending millions to hide them. Talk all you want about how Romney cannot be trusted for refusing to release any more tax documentation... but where's all the talk about the guy who's already in office who clearly can't be trusted? The guy who promised transparency as part of his campaign yet made the veil darker than ever? Oh yeah.. all that's locked away in his million dollar vault.

    August 17, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  9. Barry from Wisconsin

    Romney is another rich jerk – made money by screwing US workers…and then knows that a tax rate of what he says (13%) is RIDICULOUS! I am retired, nave an income of less than $60,000 per year, and my Federal tax rate was about 20%.

    August 17, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. Wake up People!

    Long form birth certificate??? Remember THAT??? Talk about wasting time. Willard is a tax cheat and a liar and he is now trying to buy the Presidency and change the tax code to benefit him and the rest of his wealthy friends but you regular people don't care?? Really, where were you when Bush went on a spending spree like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman?? This man is a liar and we're supposed to just take his word??? November can't get here quick enough for me!

    OBAMA 2012!

    August 17, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  11. Jamie

    Liberals think a 13% tax rate is ridiculously low and demand to know why Romney pays 13% while they pay 30%. Well, Romney made $5,000,000 last year. A 13% effective tax rate means he paid $650,000 in taxes last year. You made $70,000 last year and paid 30%. So you paid $21,000. So people cry they are paying more than Romney. They're not. Romney paid 31 times more than the average $70,000 employee. Their argument is ridiculous.

    August 17, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  12. mike

    He wont release his tax returns because it will probably show that he took advantage of an amnesty program offered by the IRS a few years ago to people like Romney who had money in overseas bank accounts but had not reported them. This would have been considered a felony under normal circumstances and would show up on these hidden taxes!

    August 17, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  13. Tzar of Common Sense

    Here's why his tax returns are relevant to the American people: he is pitching a tax policy based on the assumption that the upper class pays too much in taxes. A tax policy that the non-partisan Tax Policy Center (which Romney himself once called fair and objective) analyzed and confirmed that any way you alter the deductions eliminated, it results in a tax increase on the middle class. So if his tax returns show (which they will) that Romney pays a less effective tax rate than the average citizen, he has no leg to stand on when pitching his tax policy...it is DOA. Frankly, I'd like to see Paul Ryan justify how he can both sign the Grover Nordquist pledge for new tax hikes AND support the Romney plan. Seems like he's in a bit of a Catch 22.

    August 17, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. NoLongerRepublican

    I am convinced now that obama camp knows exactly what Mitt is hiding.....they know he is not going to take this deal further implicating himself cause whatever he is hiding is so bad

    August 17, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  15. Bob

    He is not one of the wealthiest men to run for president, he is THE wealthiest man to run for office.

    August 17, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  16. edog

    For anyone who thinks releasing tax returns is not a big deal needs to truly understand what is at stake. Mitt is proposing $4 trillion in tax cut for the top 1% (not paid for). It is important to understand Mitts own taxes if we are to elect him to impose his tax policies on all of us.

    1. Would you let a convicted drunk driver write the drinking and driving laws
    2. Would you let a child molester write our child education laws
    3. Would you let an alcoholic write our liquor laws
    4. Would you let Mitt (tax dodger – all legal loop holes) write our tax laws???

    Think America, we already know he want to give himself and his 1% friends a $4 trillion tax CUT. Who is going to foot the bill... The middle class! Under the Ryan Budget, Mitt would pay less than 1% in taxes...

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

    Funny, how the rich like to hide.

    August 17, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  18. Karm99

    Mitt

    67% of the "Small Minded People" want to see your tax returns.

    What are you hiding?

    August 17, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  19. Tired...

    All Americans should be focusing more on somehow simplifying the tax code in the first place which is a far more important issue and keeps getting swept under the rug. We do need to keep reminding ourselves that these politician's are supposed to be working for us and we have only given them more power that they don't want to relinquish. When the important issues are brought up those in contol will distract us with some other BS like a tax return or birth certificate... l would like to see a movement to focus on a solution that can benefit both sides for a change.

    August 17, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  20. Mark of Tennessee

    Release the tax returns Mittens!!! What are you scared of? Let the people see you are the lying flip flopping crook just like the rest of your lying party of no

    August 17, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  21. NOTAGOPFAN

    @ Obama – Ending the American dream "where are all the jobs?" Where is 1 I mean ONE jobs bill that was put out by the republicans. Obama has put out his jobs bill 4 tmes, only to be denied by the republicans. Talk about stalling the ecomony and then blaming the other guy. HOW REPUBLICAN. And as far as Romney's taxes, all he has to do is PROVE WHAT HE IS SAYING. Plain and simple. After 8 years of Bush, and now the last 3 1/2 years of a do nothing congress, we as Americans are skeptical about what is being said. Men lie women lie NUMBERS DON'T!

    August 17, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  22. IndeePendant

    What a waste of time? Romney – just release the taxes and we all assure you that as citzens, we cannot otherwise forget about you not shoing us your taxes. We are with Harry in this case, since you clearly seem to have something to hide. BTW, what are your five sons up to? Not one has served this country in any way, except to count your monies and help safeguard them in offshore accounts by evading taxes. You are the biggest Thief!!!

    August 17, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  23. Trickle down doesn't work

    Romney wants to get back to talking about issues like raising taxes on the middle class to pay for yet another tax for the stinking rich.

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

    George of the Gungle said: "If there was anything illegal, the IRS, SEC, state of Massachusetts and bunch of other federal and state agencies, has had years to go after Romney."
    -–
    Every time you guys bring up this "argument", someone will explain it to you again. No one is alleging illegality (although, there may be technically illegal stuff going on in his returns).

    The reasons his tax returns are important are: 1) not releasing them is an indication of his secretive and non-transparent nature, and 2) the American people deserve to see just how little in taxes he pays compared to them, and all the special loopholes designed for him and the other Rich-publicans.

    There could be a world of other embarrassing things in those returns, like further confirmation of his ties to Salvadoran death squad families, how long he was really in charge of Bain (who off-shored jobs during his tenure), and other secrets that would show what a creep he really is. He might even have contributions to organizations in there that would outrage his right wing base of support. As a right winger yourself, you might want to know that information.

    August 17, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  25. LJH2012

    How can we trust Mitt Romney!

    When he ran for Mass. Governor, he and his staff assured everyone that he met all the eligibility requirements...i.e....filed taxes as a Mass resident. But when called before an election committee to prove it...Romney said "OOPS" and had to retroactively filed two years. He lied before and how do we know he isn't lying now.

    Also, Anne Romney said in a recent interview, in her arrogant "I'm richer than you folks" voice, that the voters will only get 2 years of returns...because she was worried that the Democrats will use what they find against them. Thanks, Anne for admitting that you are hiding something. Remember Anne, we are not your servants, but free citizens who need to see what you consider is honest and fair.
    If you on't like it, you and your husband may take your $77,000. Medical Deduction Olympic horse and ride off into the sunset.
    Please keep flooding the Republican National Committee and Romney's Campaign websites with demands for 10 or more years of their tax returns.

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