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. Justacitizen

    Mr. Romney's campaign should make a deal with the President; the Romney's will release tax returns if the president will release the documents to "fast and furious" he is withholding. What is the president trying to hide? Sounds like a good deal to me.

    August 17, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  2. G1

    And if Romney declines again (as he should), will Obama then challenge Romney to 1 on 1 basketball? It's getting even more ridiculous and is a feeble attempt for the Dems to exploit the financial differences between Romney and the average American. I don't believe Romney did anything illegal on his taxes and I am sure the GOP vetted him carefully. It's time to move on – to the next president who can help lead this country out of its recession, get people working again and reign in unprecedented spending. Obama said 4 years ago that if he could not do it in one term, he would not deserve another. I am voting for Romney/Ryan. It's time for a change, alright.

    August 17, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  3. n222s

    Lets see. We should support disclosure of Navy SEAL tactics, the heck with national security. But we shouldn't see Fast & Furious documents because of national security. We should see tax returns out of transparency but college transcripts should be kept out of our hands. (Bush and Kerry released theirs, the precedence was set but only matters regarding Romney).

    August 17, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. Dems Need to Grow a Pair

    5 years tax returns in exchange for Obamas college transcripts and applications....great deal! I'm all for it! You can bet the farm that Romney was above board although you libs will apply your bias to the details. on the other hand, Obama paying $1,000,000 + to keep these records sealed.... now theres a story that needs to be exposed. Anybody, in search of transparency disagree?

    August 17, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  5. carlos

    Al Capone was a FINANCIAL WIZZARD, where did he end up????? and those of you defending this crook willard, you are suffering from the worst case of QUERULOUS PARANOIA...get a life and stop being a ditto head which you do day in day out.....sickening....ICK and UGH....

    August 17, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. Dom

    The big argument is that Romney stands behind the rich keeping as much money as possible ... to the point that he would have no issue throwing low income families on the street in efforts to keep taxes down for the rich. By the time Romney submitted his 2010 taxes, he already knew he was running for president and given the fact that George Romney submitted tax returns before his run, it is likely that GOP already had this issue planned. Returns before 2010 would likely prove how much of a greedy person Romney is which is why they drew the line where they did.

    This is also NOTHING like the stupid birth certificate issue either. My middle management job required me to submit a copy iof my college diploma, birth certificate, drivers license and SS card. They performed a back ground check locally, through FBI AND Interpol. Anyone who thinks a person can even get themselves into a state government with out proof of birth with today's technology and procedures is as foolish as the ad campaigns over the past 3-4 presidential elections. Mitt Romney = Donald Trump w/ better hair.

    August 17, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  7. Laughable!

    Obama – Are you for real? You've completely f-'ed thiscoountry and now your writing "deals" like some shool kid......Give me a break, you need to get a life and do something constructive (it is too late knowing you have 3 months left)....Is it any wonder other world leaders like Putin laugh at you!

    August 17, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  8. WhatRUHiding

    It's as plain as the nose on his face, Romney is hiding something, but what is it? Did he break the law? How did he get $100,000,00.00+ into an IRA? Where does he invest, here in the US, or offshore? Why does he have offshore accounts where the money can be invested by foreign banks in foreign countries?

    Every American is free to vote for whomever they wish, even if his tax forms are revealed, so why wouldn't EVERYONE want to know how he conducts his business?

    There is one standard reason to do it: Everyone else does. There are two special reasons Romney must do it: 1) He claims to be so knowledgeable about business and his tax forms would provide us great insight into his claim, 2) His father set the precedent!!!!

    He must have something REALLY REALLY HORRIBLE in those tax returns for Romney to continue to hide them in secrecy even in the face of public criticism. It could cost him the election if he doesn't show these forms..

    On the other hand, maybe it would cost him more than that were he to show them....makes you wonder...

    August 17, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  9. easyrhino

    Either of these clowns as president will be a disaster for the USA but the fact that Obama's team keeps pushing a non-issue should tell you they have nothing of substance to offer the electorate as to why he deserves your vote.

    August 17, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. Monicafaye12

    Romney-I agree, lets change the subject. But first release your tax returns. You hiding them is giving us all the impression that you have done something wrong. Just release them so that we can all move on to more important matters. Until you do, how can we trust you?

    August 17, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  11. FormerTeaPartyPerson

    I'm sorry Mitt. I was the first to vote for you in our county's primary. However, I cannot vote for you NOW. I
    understand all politicians lie; even your running mate was caught in a big lie last night. And I don't hold that against either of you. Both Democrats and Republicans do it! But the only way I will vote for you is if you release at least 5 years of your tax returns as requested by the President. I am not a Democrat in disquise. I am a Republican, but not now a Tea Party Member as my screen name indicates.

    August 17, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  12. OnceGreatNation

    All on the left are concerned with Romney's taxes but apparently not too concerned about the billions of tax dollars this administration is wasting on amnesty for illegals, failed loans to dem friendly companies, a bogus healthcare program, the greatest number of welfare recipients ever (many who are completly capable of working but choose not to) etc. Hurry up November! I am hoping for change because what we have now is not sustainable. As an example, see California.

    August 17, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  13. Evelyn

    I am an independent voter and I am so SICK of all this time spent on tax return talk..Romney has released what was required...I am more interested in hearing from both parties how they are going to REDUCE our national debt..get more americans working again..decreasing the amount of people on public assistance who really shoudn't be getting it (I don't mean the elderly or truly disabled)..keeping our nation secure..having a real meaningful support of Israel..and do something about GSA they are spening OUR money out of control and no one seem interested in stopping them!!! Speak up Obama on these issues!!!

    August 17, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. betterdays

    Don't do it, Mitt. Don't take the bait. This is how they run all of their campaigns; don't fall for the ploy. It's pretty much all they've got. There is no law other than the law of mob rule that says you need to release more tax info. Americans will decide based on what Harry Reid has led them to imagine you are hiding and how well they think the country is doing under Obama. I highly recommend standing firm.

    That's what I'd say if asked.

    August 17, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  15. goodcitizens

    I think Romney wants to change the rule of the presidential campaign for not showing his tax return. His dad showed 12 years. All presidential candidates showed several years, but Romney won't! He is the only candidat who doesn't want to show what is on his tax return...It is dangerous because the future next campaigns, candidats will say " I don't want to show my taxes because it is not a requirement anymore" Mitt Romney didn't". Think about it.

    August 17, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. larry

    Romney should just ignore Obama's attempt to pull attention away from how pitiful his performance as president is.. If the retaliation keeping it visible is taken away it will go away. I believe the American people are getting wise to what Obama is doing. Eventually no one will pay any attention to this diversion and start concentrating on the real problems that Obama has taken down the toilet. Obama is trying to use the same tactcs that were so successful getting him elected at a state level, but Chicago does not have the power nationally that it did in the state. He has used dirty politics to get elected all along. Look at the way he won the nomination from Hilary. He is using the dirtiest tactics there have ever been in any election campaign.

    August 17, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  17. zaggs

    5 years of Romney's private tax returns (which Obama has never released) for all Fast and Furious documents and all documents from Obama's time in the Illinois senate. Deal?

    August 17, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  18. Dyslexic doG

    Mitt must be hiding something BIG!

    August 17, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  19. ObamaIsPathetic

    How about Romney releases his taxes when Obama releases his college transcripts? How about Obama stop worrying about how much Romney paid in taxes and focus on fixing the economy? If Romney did something illegal in his taxes then he would be dealing with the IRS, the fact that he's not means his taxes are clean. How many people in Obama's camp haven't paid their taxes? Last I heard it totaled north of $800k worth. Obama is a fool and a failure. Time for his to go!

    August 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  20. Snake

    To Dems Need to Grow a Pair:


    So the only double-standard is you, a conservative...AGAIN.

    August 17, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  21. Tim

    Why is this so imprtant? If he did something illeagal the IRS would be all over him. So stupid to keep bugging him about it, what diference will it make exept to say "hey look at the rich guy!, he is out of touch" It is os sad that being rich has become taboo. Look at the history of Socialist countries it always starts like this.

    August 17, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  22. Richard S

    The media is reaching on this one perhaps they should first vet Obama A/K/A Barry Soetoro we still do not know anything real about Obama. The liberal media is so obvious now and it shows in their ratings I predict a landslide against Barry Soetoro, and a further slip in the ratings for all of the media who refused to tell the truth about who Obama really is. PS Former Democrat

    August 17, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  23. sassysticks53

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

    LOL! Would you please tell us exactly how much did the President pay? You just can't accept the fact that Obama graduated from Harvard with honors and that he's the President of the United States; lives in the White House and has all the privileges afforded a U.S. President. You just can't stand it and it's so funny and sad at the same time. So sad to see people believing the racist tripe they hear on FAUX news and from Rush Limpbrain and the other hysterical, ridiculous radio show hosts. How many "millions" did the President of the United States pay to have his school records sealed? Maybe you can get the answer for me from that wacky sheriff in Arizona who is supposedly conducting his own investigation into the birth certificate of the President of the United States.

    August 17, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  24. UncleM

    He must be hiding something – did he take IRS amnesty for offshore tax evasion?

    August 17, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  25. The Real Tom Paine

    Adam Smith had it right about the business community: they confuse their interests with the good of the nation, and feel they are one and the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. I will take Adam Smith and " The Wealth of Nations" over Ayne Rand and " Atlas Shrugged" anyday. The GOP is now filled with ammoral fools who believe that greed is a virtue, and that a simple act of disclosure is an invasion of privacy. If I have to show ID to prove I a legitimate voter, than Romney needs to produce the physical returns to prove he is as virtuous as he claims.

    August 17, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
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