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. todd

    Interest income and dividends are tax exempt if reinvested. This opportunity exists for everyone. Trouble is due to reckless monetary policy, the declining value of the dollar has kept those opportunities out of reach for the many. But just who appointed Golman Sachs inside men into the top position that were to watch over and protect the American taxpayer. Hank Paulsen, Timothy Gietner and Ben Bernake? It was our current President who invited the wolf into the hen house. This President looted or has taken almost 40,000 dollars out of everyone pocket in the form of an IOU. And he feels he is in the best choice for another 4 years? I'm sorry, I just don't see it. I don't see or hear any new ideas.

    August 17, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  2. T'sah From Virginia

    I think the evidence we already have demonstrates that Romney's tax returns are relevant to this election.◄

    Thank you Tabitha – you are DEAD ON with your post. I am really excited to see that the Democrats are fighting back and not allowing Karl Rove to pull another "swift boat" act.

    Has anyone noticed now, since Democrats are not taking anything lying down, the OTHER SIDE is calling it NASTY and HATEFUL even though they are nastier and more hateful in their approach??!!! So we better get used to NASTY or turning the channel when you don’t want to hear it.

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    August 17, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. Marie MD

    The flip flopper is hiding not just overseas money but loopholes and dancing horse deductions and just because his cult religion makes them give the church money that doesn't matter to me. It must be nice to have so much to give them all that money.
    BTW your wife being sick again is not going to make anyone take pity on you. The sanatorium tried that time and again with his daughter Bella for pity votes.
    I want to see you with your tail between your legs showing us your taxes. I wonder if you will go back to hiring illegals to mow your lawn(s) once you are defeated in November.

    August 17, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  4. NoLongerRepublican

    @rrd: 'August 15 WASHINGTON (AP) – The recession that ended three years ago this summer has been followed by the feeblest economic recovery since the Great Depression. And all the Obama campaign is worried about is tax returns."

    We can thank the obstructionist GOP for that!!

    August 17, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  5. kevin

    Nothing new here....how about Obama release all his college records, high school records, his thesis paper, and why he surrended his law license and Mitt will release his tax returns. Now that would be a deal!

    August 17, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  6. Trust But Verify

    @miki02 wrote:

    I am a Republican, however I don't feel I can support Gov.Romney because he needs to be transparent with his words and deeds which includes his taxes for 10 years.


    I'm a former republican and now I'm an independent who puts my COUNTRY BEFORE ANY PARTY. I don't trust either side and before I vote, I want to know as much as possible about BOTH candidates. Romney's refusal to release his tax records baffles me. Don't Americans deserve to see what every presidential candidate has provided in the past!

    "Country Before Party"
    USA 2012

    August 17, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  7. Babyboomer

    All I know is, I had to show at least 3 years of tax returns to qualify to purchase a home. If we, the American People, have to do that to get a house, that's the VERY LEAST Romney can do to have a shot at the White House. Oh well, that's never going to happen anyway. He's ticked off so many voting blocks in the U.S., I don't think he can get elected dog catcher at this point.

    August 17, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  8. JP

    Gov. Romney paid 13% based on current tax code; it is not the presumed fair share? What is the fair share then?

    August 17, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  9. Jon

    Why doesn't Obama make a real deal ... why doesn't he agree to release the fast and Fourious documents as well as his college transcripts in return for Romney's tax returns .... now that is a deal that would be transparent and one that i think most Americans would like

    August 17, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  10. informer

    Romney never once asked for Obama's birth certificate. He wasn't on that band wagon so let that one go. He has shown more tax returns than is required. Obama is just grasping for straws. Good bye Obama! Try to win on your regular lies. Maybe try the Hope & Change crap again! No one not deserves to pay for your mess.

    August 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  11. armyvet129

    What kind of deal is that? Who cares what these people demand. Romney said he paid over 13 percent for ten years. Now either a candidate for President or a Senate Majority leader is a liar. Let's put Harry under oath and see where it goes. Romney disclosed the information so unless Obama wants to call him a liar, move on.

    August 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  12. Zeke83

    The current administration will do anything to keep the spot light off of B.O's record of failure. Romney already released all the tax records required of him. Is he under investigation by the IRS for tax fraud? Nope. He paid every single penny of tax that he owed. Who in their right mind would pay more than they owe? Obama sure didn't. That makes him, and many, many others a hypocrite.

    August 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  13. Malory Archer

    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.


    What company would that be Jeff – Staples or some other low wage, no benefit corporation?

    August 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  14. Hopeless and Changeless

    Hope and change has now become "I Hope we Change the subject to anything else but the economy"

    August 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  15. us_1776

    Romney stands no chance of being elected without releasing the last 8 years of tax returns.

    Every single president in our lifetime has released their tax returns.

    It's a matter of trust, Mitt. Do you get it?


    August 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  16. jake

    @ Anonymous Most of the promises that President Obama made have been blocked by the Republicans.

    August 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  17. 1Joyce

    I think there are more Republicans who don't care about Obama's birth certificate than those who do. Obama must be running out of material to use – unrelated to the problems this country has. Most of us want to talk about the real issues. So now we're condemning people for doing things that this government says is LEGAL?

    August 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  18. ART

    This is straight from the horses mouth, Ann Romney stated that releasing any more tax returns would just give us little people more amunition. I for one do not understand this perverse logic, so to me it is obvious that romney the robot is hiding something even worse than a $76,000 tax deduction for a dancing horse. Wake up America.

    August 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  19. Laurie in Spokane

    No matter what Romney's true personal reasons are for not wanting to release his tax returns, that fact that he does not only leads people to draw their own conclusions, mainly that he has something to hide, something he definitely DOES NOT WANT the rest of us to know about. So, which one is worse Mr. Romney, doing something you don't want to do (kinda like going to the dentist) or have the rest of us believe (what we already know is true), that you're hiding something.

    August 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  20. sCOTT

    This is getting old, OBama quit trying to play the game. We the people are more interested in what you are going to do about unemployment, putting people to work, fixing this country. The Obama campaign reminds me of the little kid thats continues to say "Are we their yet" . Newsflash Obummer no one cares about Romneys return, its the jobs boy.

    August 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  21. Virginia Independent Voter

    Something's fishy about Romney. I'm still trying to understand how he has an IRA with $100 million in it. Us normal people can put it $3000 a year in an IRA. It would take me over 33,000 years to accumulate that much. See, this is the problem. The rich elite play by different rules. While it may be legal, it needs to stop by enacting laws that do not favor the rich over the poor.

    August 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  22. Robert

    How, in the name of all that's holy, will Romney's tax returns make even one iota of difference in what he plans to do to get this economy rolling again? Even if he paid NO taxes at all will not change what he plans to do. Let's face it, the guy's a financial guru, he knows how money works. Let's give him the chance to do for us what he has done for himself. He obviously knows how to make it work.

    August 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  23. Steve

    Ancient Texan, you need to better understand what Capital Gains are. If I make $100,000 gross, and pay 20% effective tax rate, I take home $80,000. Now, if I invest all of that, and make a 25% return, I profit $40,000. I'm only being taxed on the $40,000, which has never been taxed before. Additionally, I'm only paying 15% on that amount, rather than my effective rate of 20% on my regular income. So, to clarify, there isn't a double taxation going on here, but simply a way for those that have the money to invest to be provided a lower tax rate.

    August 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  24. jhgrdghjkutr

    mitt romney is a lazy good for nothing lying SOB who has not had a real job in 20 years he takes naps after watching paul ryan do his campaigning for him mitt romney is a loser

    August 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  25. DanD

    LOL! All these people who claim this demand to release his Tax records are simply a distraction from the real issues are probably the same people who demanded Obama's birth certificate. The issue is whether we can trust this man to lead our country. If Romney's got nothing to hide or be ashamed of, there should be no reason whatsoever for him to not hand over his tax records.

    August 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
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