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. Peace

    Folks, this issue of Romney's Tax Returns is the most important issue than anything. Keeping in mind that the economy is at the front burner and Romney claims that he will fix it, people have all the rights to know this man who puts himself forward, whether is the right person to do it or not. If Romney can't fix his own personal finances and be transparent, how can he manage the economy of the entire country?

    August 17, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  2. kvan

    It seems like there are a lot of people who don't understand the tax code. Investments are taxed at 15%, he's not earning new money. This is money he's invested that he already paid taxes on, much like retired people do. I'm sure he has other deductions that reduce that. Newsflash! That is the tax code.

    August 17, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. zaggs

    I love all the Obamatons and their hypocrisy. Obama has never EVER released tax records from when he was a private citizen. Yet thats what he wants from Romney. Obama has illegally used executive privilege to hide documents that would show either he, or Holder or both are accessories in hundreds of murders in Mexico thanks to their orders regarding Fast and Furious. Despite the fact they are supposed to be public records, Obama documents from his time in the Illinois senate are blocked. The libertarian party VP candidate once made a 1 million dollar bet that he had better grades and LSAT scores than Obama yet was denied entry to Harvard, proving that Obama got in due to affirmative action. No college records have ever been released. The Obama administration has in 4 years denied more FOIA requests than Bush did in 8.

    August 17, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. cgs

    And Romney can trust Obama to keep his word? Hahahaha

    August 17, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  5. Anonymous

    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

    WRONG CNN> He never once said he paid INCOME taxes. He merely said he paid taxes and I am sure he did. Property tax and Sales Tax.

    "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."

    So when does he actually plan on releasing these plans? LOL

    August 17, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  6. n222s

    Why do I want to see the transcrpits? I believe completely that Obama was born in the US. Did I say he was born in the US? Yes. I believe he was born in the US. That said, did he lie on his transcripts and claim to be foreign born to gain easier admission or scholarships available to Nigerian or Indonesian citizens? Did I say I fully believe he was born in the US? I do. Completely. So why would I think he might have lied? Because his publicist said he was foreign born. Think about. Why would any publicist in their right mind jump to that conclusion? It is their job to disseminate information and accuracy is a part of that job. The publicist could have made a mistake but who makes THAT kind of mistake? I hear a foreign sounding African name but I don't assume the country of origin being Nigeria. And remember he had NOT written the book yet when the mistake was made so where did she get that impression. And until we see the transcripts should we assume he lied? And until we see the tax returns should we assume he lied?

    August 17, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  7. Plumelet

    To NYC Girl,

    13% of a large income base is not "barely". How about we all pay the same tax rate, no matter what income one earns? I would be thrilled!

    It is not anyone else' business how one spends his/her own money. It does matter when it comes to how the government spends the tax dollars. Why should my money be spent on social parasites, illegal immigrants, and corrupt public officials / employees? That is the real question you should ask Obama and his minions.

    August 17, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  8. Bob Ramos

    Both Milt and Ann have consistently stated that they would not release the tax returns because then the Obama folks would want more years. By refusing the deal not to ask for any more beyound five years, the Romnys prove that there is something in the returns they do not want the American people to know.

    The election is expected to be razon thin. This one issue is enough to cause enough voters to vote for Obama to swing the election his way.

    August 17, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  9. California Gary

    Well then Robert........let your job be the first one outsourced as Romney "turns the economy around".........and don't cry about not having a safety net when it happens, as your man Mitt is looking to get rid of most of that too.

    August 17, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  10. Doug

    There is no "Obama Economy". The GOP seems very happy with poor economic news, as it is more mud to fling at Obama. What they forget is that if Obama fails, we all fail. They also forget that the economy crashed on GWB's watch, not Obama's. Obama can be rationally (but wrongly) criticized for not cleaning up the mess fast enough, but he had no part in causing the mess.

    August 17, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  11. BainDemocrat

    It's important to know what Mitten's tax history is because we need to believe that whoever is President will have America's best interests at heart and he will care about the common man. A president can't be a puppet for the super wealthy. We don’t want him brokering sweetheart deals with his rich friends. We need to see a man who has cared about his country and about the average person his entire life. If Mittens is hiding money in overseas accounts, dodging taxes, closing businesses down and taking their pensions, and leaving his sons hundred million dollar trusts funds, then this is a sign that Mittens is a greedy fat cat who wants to be POTUS for the prestige of it. I don't want a greedy person running the USA. And neither should YOU tea party!

    August 17, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  12. Lynda/Minnesota

    Hey, GOPers. President Obama actually was born the the good old United States of America. He proved it.

    Mitt, on the other hand, needs to prove he's got the guts to tackle ALL the issues facing ALL the "you people" he would in fact be representing.

    Releasing his tax returns might help increase the "trust" factor. So far, he's failing miserably.

    August 17, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  13. skybill40

    Rudy NYC wrote:

    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.

    -------------------------------------------------

    Uh, do you even understand what you've written? You cannot be born in the US and also be a citizen of another country unless you have DUAL citizenship. The POTUS is NOT allowed to be a dual citizen. Period. If you're going to try and posts statements as facts, you'd better get your facts straight before posting.

    August 17, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. Patriot Awesome

    I still want to see Romney's birth certificate. Has he shown it yet?

    August 17, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  15. Klw

    "One of the wealthiest candidates in history." Interestingly, Washington and JFK likely had more, though JFK never technically inherited it. JFK's father supposedly took advantage of the Great Crash and had about 10x Romney's current wealth in 1935.

    August 17, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  16. Exasperated!!!

    I agree that due diligence should be done for the future president, however, Romney's personal taxes are NOT relevant. He paid his fair share of taxes (many Americans pay no income tax at all) PLUS giving a much larger portion to charity than most Americans. Let's get back to topics that matter and stop allowing the campaigns to distract and divert.

    August 17, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  17. Joe B

    Ann Romney said they already showed you people / us people enough information about their taxes, and they will not show you people / us people any more.

    August 17, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  18. Steve

    Romney has no choice other than to refuse to release his tax returns from years past. If he were to do so, we would all learn how much money that he actually made from Bain Capital between 1999 and 2002, the years that he had "nothing to do with the firm" while they were outsourcing thousands of jobs and laying off American employees. It's true that nobody, including Mitt, should pay more in taxes than what is legally required, but Mitt isn't doing himself any favors by refusing to disclose how much he made from Bain.

    August 17, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. Dan

    Tax Returns will not go away,do not care if you wear Magical Panties.

    August 17, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  20. nobikiniatoll

    Show us your taxes, Mittens. Almost everyone who's undecided at this point, even those leaning in your direction, would like to have a look and are puzzled (and not in a good way) about your refusal to disclosed them. And rightly so.

    August 17, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. Doug

    What's with all the comments about Obama's school records? Who cares? And is this the hater's new conspiracy theory since the birther thing is now about as credible as the Flat Earth Society? Fake moon landings anyone?

    August 17, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  22. CryBabies

    Memo to Obama Camp: Really?....Go Away.

    August 17, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  23. n222s

    He could have paid more. All you have to do is write a check and pay more. So why didn't he? Greed, out and out greed. Has to be. Nobody is forcing him to take deductions not afforded to the rest of us. He dare lecture us on what is right and wrong? That phoney. WAIT...you think I'm talking about Romney? I'm talking about billionaire Warren Buffett, Obama supporter. Nevermind. He's not running for president so when he lectures US about tax policy we should listen to Warren Buffett lament the fact that he's not forced to pay higher taxes and won't out of patriotism but has to wait for he US to force him to pay higher taxes so he isn't hypocritical. Wait, he supports Obama so his hypocrisy is OK by me, right?

    August 17, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. Let's Move On

    I'm a liberal. Enough is enough. Romney is clearly hiding something. But you know what? I don't really care very much. Let's find out what Romney and Ryan will do for America that won't gut social programs and pander to the wealthy. I want to hear what they are going to do, not what they've done. Romney has done nothing illegal. If he had, the IRS would be all over him like a cheap suit. Let's move on. Focusing on what might be wrong doesn't do us any good. It is unlikely I will vote for Romney, but give the guy a break and let's spend airwaves on what his plan is. That alone will lose him the electon.

    August 17, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. Dilip Samuels

    So Romney

    Did you hide money or launder money in the Caribbean. Simple answer please

    13% taxes...wow!! what a nice low tax rate. How did you mange that with incomes of 42 million

    Man !!!!!

    August 17, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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