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. Texas MD

    Why do you keep making such a big deal out of these tax returns – move on CNN. The majority of the non brain-washed, knowledgeable voting community, want someone successful running the country. If Romney did anything illegal the IRS would be all over it. There's better stories out there. Romney-Ryan all the way. Repeal Obamacare. Cut taxes to all, especially the middle class, and shrink the size of this wasteful government. Bring it on trolling Obama fanboys – Obama has no chance.

    August 17, 2012 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  2. Carl Nixon

    Romney only said he paid 13% in taxes. He did NOT say 13% in income taxes!!

    August 17, 2012 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  3. Still Divided

    Arrogance! As if they have the power to offer. At this point, as an independent, I don't want Mitt Romney to release anything. I say, stand up to the bully Obama's become and thumb your nose at them. God knows our problems are too deep to care about this high school drama President Obama is trying to create. I voted for Obama in 2008, and it is the one vote of my life I regret.

    August 17, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  4. Mel

    What about the deal is....Obama releases all his sealed items and then, they can ask Romeny to release 5 years....

    August 17, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  5. Tom

    It’s clear if this guy doesn’t want to lay the cards on the table he has something to hide. Stated he paid 13% taxes the past few years. But on how much did he pay 13% on? Because that’s the trick these guys pay, they hide the cast offshore to claim less on income. Just a perk for the rich who helped push open trade through. & by the way none of our elected lawmakers have the authority to over write import tax. Nor do they have the authority to create business contracts with other nations in regards to import taxes. OUR government’s job was to simply balance trading between nations. How’s that going guys? Do you think you should be fired yet? When do you think you should all be fired?

    August 17, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  6. Sunlight99

    What kind of deal is that.... If I were Romney I would say fine but instead of Romney releasing items with Obama promising then not to keep harping on it all which would be a lie, I would have Obama release all of his school records and the fast and furious items he has kept sealed. Let it all hang out and the chips fall where they will.

    I doubt Obama will do it because Romney may have some odd deductions (like Clinton taking off his underwear donation) but if he was illegal the IRS would be all over him. However, I do think Obama is hiding his foreign student status and his over excessive use of affirmative action.

    August 17, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  7. Dave

    Given the challenges that America faces, we want an honest man as POTUS. Not going to just take your word govenor.

    August 17, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  8. Still Divided

    Mitt Romney needs to stand strong and refuse. President Obama has become a bully (why, oh why did I ever vote for him?) and we independents are growing so sick of this childishness from the WH. The left is hurting itself. It's beginning to look like the only adults in the room are Mitt Romney and Raul Ryan.

    August 17, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  9. Still Divided

    Make that Paul Ryan.

    August 17, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  10. Andy

    I knew when I saw this "deal" headline that this was a total B.S. move. Of course they sent copies to journalist and posted it on-line. It's a total ploy by the Obama campaign to keep Romeny's taxes as the center of attention.

    A "deal" is two ways. Like, "Hey Mitt, If you release 5 years of tax returns, I'll release my transcripts..."

    But we all know that will not happen.

    They BOTH are hiding from something. Not just Mitt.

    August 17, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  11. Eric

    I recall Neville Chamberlain was once offered a similar deal. He was fool enough to take it.

    August 17, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  12. Sunlight99

    Oh my comment above about lying was directed at Obama. There is no way even if he promises that Obama will let the issue go he would find something in whatever was released to keep harping on. Obama has a rotten record and nothing to run on except for the cult of the messiah and a nasty negative campaign. Unlike the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama can say of his horrible record for the last 3+ year – Obama did build that.

    August 17, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  13. DJ

    The economy is so bad, people are still struggling to keep their homes and find work, and yet his opponents tax returns are more important?? Another distraction, this is going to far time to focus on the important issues!!!!

    August 17, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  14. ST

    Good move Obama Campaign. It was only yesterday Romney (while being taped), he declared that he went through his 10 years Tax Returns and found that he paid 13% or so. Now, you are not asking for all those taxes of ten years, but only half of it (only 5). We are all waiting with all our eyes wide opened to see what will come from Mitt Romney. The ball is in your hands Mr. assumptive GOP nominee.

    August 17, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  15. majorwiblit

    Sounds like a good deal to me Mitt,,,,

    August 17, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  16. JR

    Where there's smoke, there's fire. And there's a great deal of smoke coming from the Romney camp on the issue of his taxes.

    What, exactly, is he hiding? And how can we trust him, when it's so obvious he's hiding something from us? What is he scare of showing us?

    As Reagan once said: "Trust, but verify"

    August 17, 2012 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  17. voter

    Clearly just another dirty tactic to keep the "controversy" going in the media. Do they really think Romney would take them up on their threat? The Obama camp is stooping pretty low and should be ashamed of this kind of attack.

    August 17, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  18. clayusmcret

    I've got a deal. Obama releases all of his college transcripts, including his financial records, and Romney releases tax returns. Fair and square.

    August 17, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  19. pjoe

    Psssh. That's goofy. Let Obama scream about tax returns all he wants. If IRS finds anything illegal, Romney will gladly pay back-taxes & fines. They haven't, so it is a non-issue.

    Romney needs to talk about the economy, jobs, debt, deficits, and unity.

    August 17, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  20. Namemetron

    Obama is getting desperate. "Please give me something that I can spin so we can continue to demonize you while avoiding
    the real issues."

    August 17, 2012 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  21. Jake

    Mr. Romney try understanding this in plain simple English. Your tax returns speak of your values, character, and integrity. That's why employers both in the private and public sectors ask for multiple years of tax returns from prospective employees. It's not about IRS accepting or not accepting your tax returns, that is not the issue. The issue is a simple one...HONESTY ABOUT WHO YOU ARE.

    When your wife Ann Romney says..."We will not be releasing any more tax returns because that would give people more ammunition" says more about the existence of something America would reject thats in those tax returns. It is akin to pleading the 5th Amendment against self incrimination.

    If you are as honest as you claim, then there is absolutely no reason to continue this charade and longer. Either you are indeed honest, release the returns and make everyone look like a liar. Doesn't that make all the sense in the world? However, if your tax returns demonstrates a man so different and apart from the Mitt Romney we see, then this is the consequences of your own acts which are now coming back to haunt you.

    The ball is on your court Mitt. You can end this now and make everyone a liar and vindicate yourself and wear it as a badge of honor or you can continue the controversy all the way to the elections. It won't go away.

    August 17, 2012 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  22. tom clements

    Have the irs give an audited accounting of every dime and where it was spent first. Then have a budget produced.

    August 17, 2012 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  23. nautiusm

    I swear. Sometimes I think Obama is a 12 year old the way he behaves. This is getting way too petty and he is being a bit too obvious.

    August 17, 2012 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  24. DJ

    Why would a campaign manager make this request, other than attempting to pull up new information to help his candidate. This is clearly another ploy on behalf of the Obama team!! Time to stop clouding over the issues and start letting the American people know how our President plans to make the economy better!!

    Full Messina Letter:

    Dear Matt:

    I am writing to ask again that the Governor release multiple years of tax returns, but also to make an offer that should address his concerns about the additional disclosures. Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide. So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: 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.

    This request for the release of five years, covering the complete returns for 2007-2012, is surely not unreasonable. Other Presidential candidates have released more, including the Governor's father who provided 12 years 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. 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.

    To provide these five years, the Governor would have to release only three more sets of returns in addition to the 2010 return he has released and the 2011 return he has pledged to provide. And, I repeat, the Governor and his campaign can expect in return that we will refrain from questioning whether he has released enough or pressing for more.

    I look forward to your reply.

    Jim Messina
    Obama for America Campaign Manager

    August 17, 2012 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  25. Curt

    Anybody wonder why a man who is insisting he is such a good businessman and how he is so organized needs an extension to file his income tax ? Its not like he didn't know when taxes were due. If he can't even file his taxes on time how does he expect he can run a country ?

    August 17, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
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