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. Trust But Verify

    @Gezellig wrote:

    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.


    Well said. American deserve to be well-informed by BOTH parties.

    August 17, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  2. justme

    mr. romney could have the best plan the world has ever seen.. one point i think that most of america is trying to make is that if the man cant be trusted to even release hix tax info. while running for leader of the free world, should he be? has the man invested in america? what has he done with his trickle down money? did he create jobs like the bush adm. intended? i dont believe so. so you can have any plan your crooked little mind can fester and tell eeeeeveryone about it, but if you have a history of deception, you have no buisness running for potus. this is why america wants to see where u put your money.

    August 17, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  3. Santex

    The letter was sent to Romney and the media. So was it a request for information or a publicity stunt?

    How about this trade? You release your detailed plan for improving the economy and we will release our plan for improving the economy.

    August 17, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  4. Former Dem

    What is Obama hidding in his school records that he paid millions to keep sealed?

    August 17, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  5. Robert

    Anyone who has a long professional history of turning FAILURES into SUCCESSES has my vote. Romney is obviously very well qualified for turning financial disasters around. If he knows how to make money for himself and others, then let him do the same thing for this country.

    August 17, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  6. kvan

    Jesus Obama, don't you have anything else to offer than Romney's taxes? What are YOUR plans for the next 4 years, another stimulus, because the first one worked so well. I don't care what Romney did with his taxes. I want to know what Obama is going to do to MINE.

    August 17, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  7. c. j.

    I'm sorry I must Be missing something here. Mitt romney is happy to force me to produce 4 foms of proof of I.D. Just to cast a vote. He demands papers for immigrants or face self deportation. What is mitt romneys reasons for not releasing his taxes? Oh thats right... He doesnt have any. He just expects me to trust him. Sorry pal! I dont trust anyone. Especially a super-rich liar who hides from simple transperancy.

    August 17, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  8. EX Republican

    Romney is hidding his taxes..Romney is the biggest liar in politics.
    Ann Romney is a angry woman.

    August 17, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  9. Nix the Food Stamp President

    First of all you would have to trust Obama to honor a promise. He hasn't come through on many of those other than throwing all his green donors tax payer dollars that has amounted to large losses.

    August 17, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  10. I Heard Mitt Romney Was a Mexican

    By their fruits ye shall know them. Everything Romney touches turns to pure GOLD.

    Al Capone. A financial genius. Everything he touched turned to pure GOLD too. Only the problem was, he injured a lot of people in the process. Instead of putting Al Capone in jail for tax evasion, the United States government should have made him their President. I mean, you know, the guy was a financial genius who knew how to make money.

    King Midas. Everything he touched turned to gold. Have you read that one? Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.......... at your expense.

    August 17, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  11. 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 we're so worried about tax returns.

    August 17, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  12. Rudy NYC


    Let's make a deal....release your COLLEGE TRANSCRIPTS.....to see how your status come up: US Citizen or Foreign Student?
    Even if it did come up as "Foreign Student" it would not mean that he was *not born* in the US. You've been bamboozled by the right wing spin machine.

    It would simply mean that at the time he enrolled he was a citizen of a foreign country some 20 years after his birth. The Consitution requires that the POTUS be a US citizen who was born in the US.

    August 17, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  13. NYC Girl

    Why would anyone trust a man who barely pays any taxes to collect taxes fairly? Why wouldn't he inact tax law to benefit people in his income bracket so that they pay the least amount of tax possible? His running mate has proposed this very plan! This isn't rocket science....

    And for all those who think taxes punish successful people who would otherwise create jobs, just remember that Romney would rather spend money on a dancing horse.

    August 17, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  14. MKboatman

    Who in their right mind pays more in taxes than they have to? What I would really like to know is what Obama's
    economic plan is for his next term. I suspect it will be more QE until gold reaches $3000. per oz., and more payoffs
    to unions and public employees.

    August 17, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  15. Ben Frank

    Based on his own admissions,Mitt pays a low tax rate for a multi-millionaire making $2million plus a month. He is probably right that people won't vote for him if he released his returns. what's more unfair is he wants his kids to inherit that money tax free!

    August 17, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  16. andres

    How is that a deal? It is one sided, it provides no benefit to romney. I have had people offer me one sided deals before, I simply walk away. They may think it is reasonable, but that doesn't make it so.

    Don't like either choice, Unless romney starts focusing on the economy and only the economy he is going to lose the election to obama. Bill Clinton 's first campaign had it right, its the economy stupid.

    August 17, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  17. Milton K. Wiah

    The republicans argument got an answer. If Romney releases two, they will want four, when he releases five they will
    want six, now the Democrat want to make a deal, just give five and no more, what then Romney.

    August 17, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  18. UDidntBuildThat

    v-Mag-"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."
    Wow that sounds just like communism. Who decides how much "we the people" get to keep of our hard earned money? v_mag? obama? Prince Harry? Who makes that determination?

    August 17, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. givemea break

    This whole campaign is insulting to the American Public. Both sides are acting like children.

    August 17, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  20. Plumelet

    Where is the American dream? How about trying to be more successful and earning more money and contributing more? Romney is successful and understands how the economy works. I don't care if he only pays 13% in federal income tax. He is paying way more than most people do. He should enjoy his success and be respected for it.

    Obama on the other hand, is turning this great country into a free-loaders paradise. (I define a free-loader as one who is not a child, a senior citizen and has not physical disability.) Thus, the Dem party can have bribe the free-loaders into voting for them. Look at how Obama is trying to get votes by legalizing illegal immigrants. Anyone who sympathize with free-loaders should donate their own money directly to them, adopt them, or provide shelter and food to them. Just do not volunteer others' money.

    August 17, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  21. kvan

    Desperation stinks Obama, really.

    August 17, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  22. carlos

    willard, we the SMALL MINDED people want to see your tax returns,besides, 13% of taxes, what taxes??? FEDERAL INCOME TAXES???, PROVE IT,

    willard the movie, the guy had an affinity for rats and lived in a large mansion ...not much different from willard the HOOD

    August 17, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  23. rrd

    NYC Girl

    Why would anyone trust a man who barely pays any taxes to collect taxes fairly? Why wouldn't he inact tax law to benefit people in his income bracket so that they pay the least amount of tax possible? His running mate has proposed this very plan! This isn't rocket science....

    And for all those who think taxes punish successful people who would otherwise create jobs, just remember that Romney would rather spend money on a dancing horse.

    I don't think the President can inact or change any tax laws on his own.

    August 17, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. Listening

    Phil first off I'm an independent. I did not insult you-I don't see the need for you to insult me. Be civil dude. Obama was president of the Harvard law review and he has made those transcripts public. But why not Columbia? Its interesting to me. Hillary released her life's education for all to see. I would think Obama would have no need to make something as trivial as transcripts classified but he did and now he's piqued my curiosity.

    August 17, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  25. lionhart

    The same people saying we don't need to see Romney's tax returns are the ones pushing Jeremiah Wright. They said we needed to find out as much about and vette Obama as much as possible if he wants to president. Now that's it's Romney it's "hands off!!!" What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

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