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. v_mag

    Jamie (stupidly) said: "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."
    Poor Mitt. By your figures, he KEPT $4,350,000 for 1 year! And, he didn't even have a JOB he had to wake up at 5 in the morning and drive an hour to get to. I mean, who in his right mind wouldn't trade places with Mitt in a heartbeat?

    It's not how much you make, it's how much you keep. And Mittler keeps more every year, not even working, than a middle class person will see in a lifetime of work. But if you think that's fair, and that poor people are the ones on welfare, I invite you to become homeless. You can do it for free, and you can enjoy all the benefits of that lifestyle, like hunger, exposure to the elements, being in constant danger, no health care, no hope. Unfortunately, there is no way in heaven you will ever enjoy Mittler's lifestyle.

    August 17, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  2. Phil Thomas

    Look the guy was president of the Harvard Law review what do you tea party idiots think you will find in his transcripts and what president has ever done that. Besides it would take a lot of work to ge lower grades than Bush's C average. Secondly all that has to happen is Mitts releases his taxes and issue is closed unless of purse he has dirt under his finger nails

    August 17, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  3. Patricia

    Romney's income or taxes are not the issue anymore than John Carey's were in 2004. This is a really sleezy transparent tactic. Would love to see Obama's college transcripts too but that's not the issue. People want to know where are the jobs and how come our national debt is out of control; and we don't like Obamacare and all the hidden crap in that law.

    August 17, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. Governor 47th In Job Creation (Excluding Off-shored to China and India)


    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.

    Yup, sure is Pat. Unless you roll in the top 1% with Willard, then you (pat) will be paying more to support his (willard's)tax break. Obama all the way. Obama's wealthy, and wants to subject himself to more taxes to help pay down our debt....while Willard wants to give himself even more of a break. Under RAyn's budget, Willard would pay less than 1%!!!
    That was easy - no way we can afford Willard. Thanks for playing.

    August 17, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    "How is Romney's tax returns going to help the Econony."

    It will help determine future tax law discussions/decisions should he ever become President.

    August 17, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. givemea break

    I would actually like to see a 'plan' from Romney ! So far, just one line rhetoric. Is there a real plan ?

    August 17, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  7. JWR

    13% taxes; half are what many counties collect reducing Romney's rate to approximately 6.5%, because he doesn't mention income tax or any other tax he has paid, just taxes in general. What a flim-flam response to the American public. In his own words he totaled his taxes and charities to 20%. If one calculates 10% as tithes then he has really dug a hole for himself. It is possible he has paid even less than he claims. Do the math: 20% minus 10% equals 10% all day long. What a joke!

    August 17, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  8. Ed1

    I have an idea instead of asking Mitt for tax returns how about you Obama show us where the jobs are and how you plan on cutting our debt. I will bet you a happy meal that what ever Mitt paid or didn't pay in taxes he went by the book or the IRS would be all over him. What difference does it make there is a difference in earned income which is what most of are taxed on and long term capital gains tax seems nobody will point that out that's why he pays the percentage he does everybody could do the same if they had long term capital gains too. Tell the whole story and not just half all you want to do is start class warfare and I have nothing about rich people they earned it and they should be able to keep it snot give it away to people who will not work for it we do not have socialism yet but you sure are working on it.

    Now just shut up and focus on real problems stop asking for something that's that not going to happen I wouldn't release my tax returns either it's none of our business.

    August 17, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  9. Exasperated!!!

    We're so tired of this whole tax topic. Nobody really cares, and it is not relevant to the needs of a country in economic quicksand in selecting a leader for pulling us out. I just wish the media would allow the campaign to focus on real substance instead of allowing either campaign to present their small minded diversions to keep the focus off of the real solutions.

    August 17, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  10. Danna

    Let's make a deal....release your COLLEGE TRANSCRIPTS.....to see how your status come up: US Citizen or Foreign Student?

    August 17, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  11. blah blah

    Obama is begging!

    August 17, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  12. Governor 47th In Job Creation (Excluding Off-shored to China and India)

    When George Romney retroactively starts a precedent by releasing high school and college records we'll take that seriously. Until then we WILL focus on what the modern precedent continues to be: 10-12 years worth of income tax records.
    I put that in terms even TPers should be able to understand.

    August 17, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  13. South Texas

    I would take a piece of BHPT's bet. MR hired good tax accountants who took every legal deduction and then he paid what he owed. Exactly the same thing you do. If you have an issue with the deductions, that is a tax code issue which PR will address with a tax overhaul. Transparency? You have not seen any college documents, social security number, or selective service registration. You HAVE seen backroom deals to buy votes for Obamacare, dream act, etc. The latest is the purchase of a billion rounds of ammunition, much of it .40 cal. jacketed hollow point (look "hollow point ammunition" up in your Funk and Wagnels) to be distributed to government agencies. Let me assure you that jacketed hollow point ammunition is NOT used for target practice. Think carefully who you trust.

    August 17, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  14. riamb60

    Mitt donates $ 7 million a year to the Mormon Church, nice Tax deduction....

    August 17, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  15. Gezellig

    I as an American voter have a right, in fact, an obligation, to do due diligence on anyone who wants me to vote for them as President of the United States, Commander-in-Chief, and Leader of the free world. Romney accepts this as Standard Operating Procedure for everyone but the American People. He feels we can't be trusted, and are too stupid to see through any Democratic spin that may follow their release. This is something he could accomplish with a phone call, but he wants to put it on par with a discussion about complicated matters. If he wants to discuss these issues fine, but if he wants me to vote to put him in a position to do something about them, then give me the information I need to decide if he is the person I want in that position.

    His position is indefensible and disqualifying. And his supporters should know that.

    August 17, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  16. Mor Man NO!

    Why Romney, what do you have HIDE. He can run but he cannot HIDE. The truth will come out!

    August 17, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  17. Rider3

    Before Obama came into office, no other president had to prove their education. However, every recent president has had to prove they paid their taxes and followed the rules truthfully (not something like, "truthiness"). There is a BIG difference between requesting college papers and U.S. tax forms. Anyone who says, "trust me " without showing somethng or simply saying no more than those words, should not be trusted.

    August 17, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  18. noteasilyswayed

    It's time for Romney to follow in his father's footsteps and release multiple years of his tax returns. He should be transparent. This is not going to go away and it surely gives the impression that he's hiding something major from the voters.

    August 17, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  19. hwy9

    What's he hiding????

    August 17, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  20. george of the jungle

    hyprocisy runs rampet in the republican party. Anyone spending as much time as mitt has dodgeing his tax returns has something to hide. He is suppose to be a great businessman. Does he really not know how much he has paid in taxes.? And each time he expresses what he has paid he mentions that he has paid the legal amount. This tells me he uses all the loop holes and has kept a lot in his overseas accounts. Most middleclass people pay more than 13% This from the party that insisted on the presidents long form birth certificate. Vote all repos out Forward 2012

    August 17, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  21. UDidntBuildThat

    Malory Archer- u do realize that Obama controls the IRS, therefore if there was any tax evasion on Romney's part he would be audited and Obama would seize on that. None of that is going on.
    U also do realize that Romney pays taxes on investment which is typically a lower rate than a salaried employee to becuase most of us invest with money that is already taxed at the higer rate. Obama is demogoguing the issue because he knows people who are ignorant of the facts, like u will fall for it.

    However, Romney wants to reform the Tax code and get rid of the shelters enjoyed by the rich. He acknowleges there needs to fairness. But not the lies of "fairness" that Obama is pushing to spend more, borrow more and tax the rich more has been tried in Europe and has failed.Obama just want to do more of the same failed policies. Romney has the experience to bring the economy back. No one doubt that so why not give him a try to help everyone?

    August 17, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  22. Michael

    What is Romney thinking? This is a losing issue! Likely nothing illegal about hiring an army of lawyers and accountants well versed in the US tax code to handle all the details BUT Romney is running on tax cuts for the tiny top – is he not? If Romney can't or won't release his returns in the next 80 odd days – it will be "death by a thousands cuts".

    August 17, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  23. rla

    Some deal - the dims get 5 more years of taxes to twist and give up nothing??? Please- How about you unseal all your records for the tax returns??? Yea FAT CHANCE- Go Romney

    August 17, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  24. Mr Jones

    No one asking for Romney to release his tax returns is going to vote for him. I completely do not care what his tax returns say at all. I am voting for him because he is not a communist that wants to "fundamentally transform America." Nothing on his tax returns could make any difference, except for the intentional misconception Obama would spin.

    August 17, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  25. jrm03063

    If someone can't be forthcoming about something as simple as their finances – then why should they be trusted with decisions respecting the lives of our young men and women in uniform? Sorry Mitt – but you have no special right to this job – you need to PROVE that you're trustworthy on matters where proof is available.

    August 17, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
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