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. rocky_raccoon83

    How about 3 years of tax returns for everyone 1 year of Obama's College Transcripts? Seems dishonest that the Right has charged Mr. President of filing for foriegn student aid while the Left accuses Mr. Romney of not paying taxes, and neither side is willing to give in.
    They are both liars.
    put them at a table and play shom me yours I'll show you mine.

    August 17, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  2. Trust But Verify

    For all of you Republican voters, who are blindly following Romney, without demanding disclosure of his tax records...
    you are no better than all the blind Obama Supporters.

    When did people start putting their party before their country? We need to know as much as possible about BOTH candidates before making a decision in November!

    COUNTRY FIRST!!!!

    USA 2012

    August 17, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  3. orthon

    Completely agree with Tabitha. You articulated the situation perfectly.

    August 17, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  4. N&W 1000

    Obama is absolutely desperate, and it is showing, he should be ashamed to appear this utterly desperate.

    August 17, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  5. Listening

    Norma – he released his Harvard records but not Columbia. Hillary released everything dating back to high school. I think its important to know if he in fact did have good grades and the prof(s) he studied under. It seems simple enough. But these transcripts in this case are classified by the US govt not Columbia. Don't take my word for it. Research it. Its interesting.

    August 17, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  6. AmericanWaxwing

    Mitt Romney has a PROVEN RECORD of turning failures into successes. I'm voting for that kind of leadership! America needs it. I couldn't care less about more and more years of tax records - let's talk about the ISSUES!

    August 17, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  7. Gregg Beecher

    Mr. Romney has fulfilled the legal requirement. This is bordering on harassment from the Obama administration. Let the two candidates run on the issues, and let's not get distracted by these other issues. It is a smokescreen, pure and simple. It is dirty politics.

    August 17, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  8. todd

    Dear Obama for America Campaign Manager,

    I want to see all college transcripts, applications for financial assistance, passport and visa applications that were sealed for President Obama.

    Now that's a fair deal.

    August 17, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  9. Sniffit

    "Let's make a Deal, my college records and transcripts for your taxreturns."

    As stupid and false as that equivalency is, I'm willing to bet that if Mittens is stupid enough to try to "call his bluff" like that, Obama would shove his college transcripts right down Mittens' magic undies within the hour...and then what? Mittens' bluff would be called and he'd run chicken away from releasing his tax returns. Soooooo, guess what Mittens won't be offering in return as a "fair trade." Go ahead...guess.

    August 17, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  10. W.G.

    Romney won´t do it he´s a tax cheat . Romney is nothing like his father . He´s a crook .

    August 17, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  11. Plumelet

    It is just not true that someone who earns $70K would pay 30% on Fed tax alone. The highest bracket is 35% currently applying to income much higher than 70K. I guess the 30% includes Federal income tax, state income tax, medicare/ss tax, sales tax and property tax. 13% tax rate for Federal tax sounds reasonable.

    Obama is taking advantage of people's ignorance. Why doesn't he disclose his college transcripts, travel expenses, etc etc.?

    August 17, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  12. dcpintx

    Romney has met the "legal" requirement – but we all know Obama and his adminstration have no concept of what the term "legal" means. They don't enforce immigration law and walk all over the constitution, so why, all of a sudden, are "tax returns" so important? Could it be he doesn't have a substantial record to run on? I think so!

    August 17, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  13. Billy

    So, I'm supposed to be more concerned with how Romney spend his money than how Obama spends mine?

    August 17, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. Eugene

    "....Give Us those Tax Returns..."

    Fine..

    Romney should announce he will release the last Ten years of his Tax Returns and ALL of his college records but ONLY if Obama does the same thing!

    The opposition will then "Shut up" because they cannot afford the disclosure. Especially if his "Royal Majesty" attended as a "Foreign Exchange Student" and was never qualified to run for his present position. It never was about Hawaii. It was about claimed citizenship.

    August 17, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  15. Jason

    If Obama can release a faked, photoshopped tax return (proven by the (Maricopa County AZ CSI office), and get away with it, then Romney ought to be able to release a few faked, photoshopped tax returns. Sounds fair to me.

    August 17, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. Lizzie

    Norma Vessels, or maybe that he is a second rate student who applied as foreign exchange student, and no one knows who payed for his tuition, none of HIS taxreturn show that he took out loans.

    August 17, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Romney flat out lied about his tax returns when he was running for Governer. He got caught, and had to "retroactively" file his state returns in MA so that he could meet the residency requirement. There's that word again, "retroactively." I don't believe a word he says. Like I said, he's lied about this very issue before when his spokesman said, "You're gonna have to take our word for it." NAH.

    August 17, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  18. Malcolmscott

    He can't release his taxes now. If their is nothing in them to hide he will look silly waiting so long. If their is something to hide he doesn't have enough time to repair the damage before the election, so he is stuck. I for one am glad he didnt release them. I like to see him have to talk about it over and over and remind us everyday that he didn't do it. The more he looks bad the better.

    August 17, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  19. IF YOU SIGNED GROVER'S PLEDGE, YOU ARE A TRAITOR TO THE U.S.

    Wiilard M. Romney has broken the law twice. First, when he was camapigning in Wisconsin with his now running mate, they were handing out sandwiches in exchange for votes. That's against Wisconsin state law. Secondly, his financial disclosure forms don't account for his money in those foreign tax havens. That's agaianst Federal law. This man should be disqualified.

    August 17, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  20. Marley

    The tactic of attacking Bishop Mitten's lack of disclosure on his tax returns is indeed effective. It is not a distraction it is an effective strategy to undermine Bishop Mitten's credibility.

    You can't trust someone like Mitten's to be your President if you feel like he his made his billions by ripping off regular Americans by using every tax loophole, offshoring (or outsouring) jobs, and hiding his money in foreign banks.

    If Bishop Mittens gives in and releases his tax returns, you know its going to be fodder for the media and Democrats.

    So the strategy of attacking Bishop Mitten's tax returns is effective – as seen by the polls.

    August 17, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  21. Listening

    Rocky good point

    August 17, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  22. oneofakind

    Oh Lord. Are we still talking about this? I don't care about anyone's tax returns. If someone is making money, legally, more power to them. Let's talk about the ISSUES and let the debates begin!!

    August 17, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  23. Sailor101

    My counter would be "Sure I will bring my tax records and you bring your ORIGINAL Birth Certificate". That way we could see that Mitt is paying his fair share (more than his fair share) and we could also shut the Birhters up at the same time. Then maybe, just maybe, the campaign could turn to what they are going to do for the country vice slinging dirt at each other. When the mud and insults start flying both Democrates and Republicans end up loosing.

    August 17, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  24. Getoverit

    If you paid $21,000 tax on$70,000 you got JACKED!

    August 17, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  25. Sueb

    As one of the small-minded multitude, I want to see 10 years of returns, Mr. Romney. What are you hiding, what is the ammo that your wife spoke about......leads me to think there's a smoking gun in those returns!

    August 17, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
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