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. uhoh

    The problem isn't the rate at which he was taxed...it is the amount of money he sheltered from taxes in his foriegn accounts that is the problem. He doesn't want people to know how or how much he evaded paying taxes. One of my problems is that I pay the same rate on every dollar I earn, while he and others get to deminish their rates. Instead of a dollar amount, it should be a percentage for everyone.

    August 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. Lower Class

    Hold up , everybody taking about upper class and middle class what about me, oh Rommey said he ain't worried about the lower class we alright, we taken care of... Wow I think he's was raised with a lead spoon in his mouth oh we do have a lot in common cause I was raised with lead paint in mines... Romney is a cheat, a scam, a Madoff!!!! Obama for the people, he has to pull out all stops, how do you peoPle expect him to fix the economy, the whole world messed up, mitt ain't gonna do it either, it's all a ponzie scheme anyways..

    August 17, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  3. Zeke83

    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 didn't. That makes him, and many, many others a hypocrite.

    August 17, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  4. roro

    Please note that whenever Romney or his wife talk about paying their taxes, they never say the words INCOME tax. This could then mean that they are paying property tax, sales tax, etc.... not necessarily INCOME tax. Clever and devious wouldn't you say?

    August 17, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  5. Joe

    As an independent and trying to decide who to vote for, it gets clearer and clearer everytime Mitt Romney speaks. We are about 3 months away from determining whether or not he should be elected for president and he offers no solutions. He hasn't even ran the numbers so that the CBO can give us an accurate account on how his plan will reduce the debt by restructuring Medicare, Social Security, Healthcare. I ask everyone, don't you see this as an issue. The american people are asking for specifics and he is not giving them. Not releasing taxes is another huge problem when it comes to specifics. If you can release over 20 years of tax information to run for Vice President, why can't you release 5 – 10 years for President? Let's use common ordinary sense. There is a problem here.

    No smoke screens or mirrors, this is about helping our economy and getting us back out of debt. Where are the solutions? I can't vote for someone who continues to be vague, withholding, and not forthcoming with practical ideas on how to make an investment in our country's future. Tell me specifically what plan do you have? We are waiting, but my mind is almost made up. Voting for Obama will be easy decision if Mitt continues down this path. This reality and the truth. No spin, just commen sense.

    August 17, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  6. Governor 47th In Job Creation (Excluding Off-shored to China and India)

    Dan

    The point about his tax returns is this: Romney supported the Bush wars, but hid his money from taxation, letting all of the "little people" pay for and die for the wars he and his party pushed on the rest of us, while he kept his millions safe in tax shelters available only to the super wealthy. Why is this significant? He and Ryan claim to care about the deficit, but their plans only provide more tax breaks to the likes of Romney while gutting the programs that have enabled millions of those less fortunate than him to go to college and get a start in life. Meanwhile, his foreign policy advisors are the same ones that devastated our standing in the world under Bush and continue to push for more unnecessary wars. This is this highest level of immorality I have ever seen in a political candidate.

    BRAVO!!! The party that always claims to have a monopolization on patriotism can't seem to come to grips with this. Mitt was shirking his duty to help pay for a war that he wanted. My hard earned tax dollars went to the Iraq war that I didn't want. Willard should at least be man enough to pay for his wars.

    August 17, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  7. RWorthington

    The hypocrisy of the comments on this topic is beyond belief! Most of the very same people who have kept the “birther” issue in the new for more than 3 ½ years are the same people who now feels it’s a “distraction” to talk about anything other than what Governor Romney wants to talk about! Governor Romney has on more than one occasion made the release of tax returns an issue…remember his very public debates with Ted Kennedy?

    August 17, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  8. Anonymous

    How about Obama releasing all his college records. How he qualified,

    August 17, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  9. Alois

    Not a chance. How about this ,crackhead obama shows the people all his sealed documents from his questionable past and who he really is, including the real birth cirtificate ,not some computer generated fake, and admit his real corrupt,idiotic , America destroying, agenda,and also admit to the world that he has been a huge failure. Mabye then President romney will think about it. Deadbeat obama is a huge failure and he should man up and admit it.

    August 17, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  10. Proudlib

    For all you conservatives whining about how an honest disclosure of taxes payments is a distraction or a political ploy, where were you when your team lied and pulled political ploy's around birth certificates and death panels? Obama did what was expected of him. He released the standard birth certificate of the State of Hawaii, as any candidate would. He then went further and released the long form you requested. Now you want to cry foul because the other side asks for standard tax disclosure? When are you going to be honest with yourselves? It is the conservatives that are creating political obfuscation, and who are acting like children. My apologies to anyone under the age eighteen for the rude comparison.

    August 17, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. Anonymous

    BHPT,
    I would take a piece of that bet. MR hired tax accountants who followed the law, took every legitimate deduction, and paid what he owed. If your issue is with the legitimate deductions, that is a tax code issue which MR and PR are addressing with tax overhaul. Transparency? You have not seen a legitimate birth certificate, college transcript, thesis, or social security number from Mr. Obama. These issues are not "bets". I caution you to remember that the administration has ordered one billion rounds of ammunition, much of it .40 cal. jacketed hollow point (look up the purpose of HP) to be distributed in the U.S. Who do you trust, America?

    August 17, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. beevee

    What is Romney afraid of about releasing his tax returns. Why does he want to keep it a secret from the voters, unless he did not pay federal taxes he should be paying lawfully. Why shoud the voters trust a guy like him and put him in the highest office to lead the nation? This is not an issue that is side tracking othert things. It is very relevant to the american public to know how trustable this guy is. Stop balking and show the tax returns to the voters.

    August 17, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  13. Trust But Verify

    @Joe Kenney wrote:

    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.

    ********************************************************************************

    I really wish we would have chosen Jon Huntsman. Romney just doesn't sit right with me. I'm an independent that wants to support the republican party but Romney not releasing his tax returns and then his choice for VP (Ryan) is making me extremely skeptical. I like to be as well informed as possible before casting my vote. This election is so deceiving and it's sad for us citizens

    "Country Before Party"

    USA 2012

    August 17, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  14. Virginia Conservative

    I care about this I want to make sure the President we select " is Not a crook ala Nixon.. We get to see supreme Court Judges Tax returns . ALL OF them before they are put on the bench. We see the person tax return for the FBI-CIA-IRS and every other government agency. I am a Republican and I want to see 10 years of Tax returns. Fess up or you lose my vote. I don't care what you say I want to know what you actually did. If you don't want to divulge it dont run for public office. There is a reason it is called public office.

    August 17, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  15. Don Hill

    I'm 76 years old, and only a fool would believe Romney is truthful about taxed paid and foreign investments, and Swiss bank accounts.

    August 17, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  16. Ronda in Houston,TX

    Romney made and is still making his money off the backs of hard working Americans. If 63% of Americans think Romney should release previous years of his Income Tax Returns, he should listen. This is a Democracy, not a Dictatorship. Listen to the People of the United States Romney!

    August 17, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  17. Governor 47th In Job Creation (Excluding Off-shored to China and India)

    "Who cares about his taxes", the sheep whine on....
    Answer: 63% of voters and 67% of independents.
    Better release the taxes or suffer a serious thumping in November. Simple enough that even a TPer should be able to understand.

    August 17, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  18. incog

    these were the same people that were after Obama for his birth certificate. It would be hypocrisy to suggest that this is unfair. Obama finally did release his birth certificate.

    August 17, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  19. Dale Saller

    If he wants to play "lets make a deal" then lets sweeten the pot. I'd say, "i'll release 5 years if you release your college transcrpits and a physical, orginal birth certificate (not a copy). For one to say he wants his cabinet and himself to be the most ttransparent there has been... he is being pretty one sided. I wouldn't release anything, let him make a big deal out of this... he is using this as a distraction from his record, policies and the current state of the United States. You know you are in trouble when one can't talk about the current issues, your record and policies. He just needs to put in on the back burner, realize that Mitt's taxes aren't the problem and aren't the solution. Get back to the issues, solve them, be a man, stand up, do your job and act like a United States President.

    August 17, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  20. Malory Archer

    I have investments too – CDs and guess what? The dividents aren't considered "capital gains" and therefore are subject to my full 22%. My investments aren't worth very much and I don't have enought $$$ to open offshore accounts in order to avoid taxes. Average Americans don't have that funding to enjoy those luxuries either so it's well past time to change the tax code so that either ALL investments are subject to the 15% or NONE OF THEM are.

    August 17, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  21. Dr.Cole

    @ Florida Mom--–AMEN!!!
    "Florida Mom
    Who cares about his taxes.... he's rich ok got it. Now can we focus on the real problems and not on how much money Romney made or paid or whatever.. you are all losing focus.
    I would rather have a man in the WH that knows how to make money as on that only knows how to spend it!!

    August 17, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |"

    August 17, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  22. WR

    We really have to get past the taxes. Why don't we ask ourselves what Obama promised Putin when he was accidentally caught speaking on tape several months ago? Why was he telling Putin not to worry? Putin who just threw 3 women in prison for 2 years because they ask the Blessed Mother to throw him out of Russia in a church during a song. What deal with the devil did Obama have up his sleave? And here we are worried about tax returns. This country better start waking up, and getting back on track.

    August 17, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  23. JP

    Estate tax is an ideal example of democrats’ “You didn’t build” ideology.
    They think 55% is a fair share of the government on any business. On the other hand, Republicans prefer 0% estate tax. When someone puts heart and soul to their business, they built it.
    Estate tax affects very low % of population; however, it is all about an ideology.

    August 17, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  24. Expat American

    What’s so important about the President’s college transcripts? This will only serve to lay out to Republican voters asking for them that the President is worlds more intelligent than they are…Why put yourself down?

    August 17, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. Pat

    Let's see, would I rather have a wealthy president in office who knows economics and will get this country back on track fiscally or a man who continually takes more money out of my pocket. That's an easy choice.

    August 17, 2012 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
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