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. tony

    Innocent people have nothing to hide. Being a church elder/bishop should make one even more innocent.
    Of course an honest, charity generous bishop with a nearly impossible $100M IRA is a bit of an leap of "faith"

    August 17, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. jpmichigan

    If Obama opens up documentation about his past (schooling, associations, state of Illionos bar exam, etc.) , Romney can open up tax returns, which will be of an wealthy man who like everyone else use tax write offs that is allowed by the IRS tax codes. I for one would like to see the tax return of the millionaires in Congress. Obama is a millionaire, along with many on his administration, how many of those have use tax shelters in the Caymans

    August 17, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  3. googleman

    Why doesn't Romeny just say "i'll make you a deal Mr. President – you release your college transcripts and I'll release my tax returns". Why is everyone asking what the president is hide? No body cares about Romney's tax returns except the democrats trying to make it an issue. All of them have already decided to vote for Obama, so it really doesn't matter if he releases them or not.

    August 17, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  4. Tony Z

    Do we want a President who is secretive? Release taxes should be something you want to do. If he paid penalties under Amnesty they would be in the taxes. How would we as Americans feel about this? Too many arguments are not made with facts. Tell them use the same reports and than lets have a debate.

    August 17, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  5. chedar888

    A total of 13 % for 10 years. That is remarkable. I thought he did not pay. Let's 1% per year for 9 years. That makes 9%. Then the reamining 4% a write off for the Mormon church and Rafalca, that will be negative (10% for the church and 1% for Rafalca = 4, -11% = -7 % . There goes Mitt Romey's Math. Total of 10 years, will be 9-7 =effective tax rate of 2%. There goes folks. An insult to american voters.

    August 17, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  6. thefishspeaks

    Now they want to negotiate? That can only mean one thing: The Obama camp has backed themselves into a corner. Trouble for them is two fold: (1.) Romney is already a world-class negotiator–that's how he got to be wealthy–and, he didn't become a world-class negotiator by caving in to empty threats and demands. (2.) Obama realizes that IF this foolish accusation WAS TRUE at the end of the day it reflects badly on Tim Geithner and his Treasury Department leadership. That the IRS allowed one of the USA's most public figures to go without paying taxes for 10 years would be cause of even more criticism of the Obama administration and the inept leadership of the executive branch.

    August 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  7. NYC Girl

    "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"
    *********************************************************************************
    Looks like I hit a nerve.... You can thank Romney for that. Next time elect a Republican who is serious about governing instead of winning homecoming king.

    August 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  8. Thinkergal

    Romney's tax returns do matter to this voter. Obama - four more years!

    August 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  9. coffee

    Even if God came himself and said that POTUS was born in USA....silly racist still wouldn't believe em. #Trolls

    August 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  10. Mor Man NO!

    Attention ROMENY you are not above anybody else who runs for public office: WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO HIDE?

    August 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  11. husk

    I must say this Jim Messina person has no manners and doesn't know how to write a letter. This is how the letter should have been written.

    Dear Mr Romney,

    I hope Yourself, Mrs Romney, Mr Ryan and the family are doing alright. The reason I am writing you today is to ask for some ammunition. You see the tax release issue we have been rattling about has not caught on. We need some help from you. Don't worry we completely understand that you may have some reservations on agreeing to a deal that may help your opponent but rest assured we have nothing against you. We just need some help. As our mom's used to say, Ask and you shall receive eh?. Anyways please consider this as quickly as possible. Pretty please.

    Love

    Jim Messina

    August 17, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  12. Sniffit

    "the billions of tax dollars this administration is wasting on amnesty for illegals"

    Ummm, that saves money. It doesn't spend money. Using prosecutorial discretion to choose not to prosecute, in order to focus prosecutorial resources on higher priorites (like illegals that commit crimes as opposed to innocent chidlren who were brought here by their parents) is a choice to spend less and increase efficiency. Whoever told you that Obama is "spending" money by not chasing down kids who were brought here and who are now in college or the military...well....they lied to your face.

    August 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  13. jpmichigan

    Romney filed taxes of a wealthy man and use deductions, as have many wealthy families. Mr. Reid stated he did not pay taxes for ten years, Mr. Reid has accused Romney of cheating. I would like to see Mr. Reids tax returns. Any way it is no ones business how musch taxes on pays, only that they paid taxes using IRS tax codes and deductions allowed.

    August 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  14. paul

    One thing we do know. If the Paul Ryan budget and tax plan is approved (or shall I say forced through) then Romney would only pay 1% in taxes. As an educator making 35,000 with family of four, with deductions, never paid less than 15%. Something wrong with the Romney/Ryan plan if it only helps millionaires. I think we saw how the "trickle down" tax plan worked under Bush. Also very concerned about Cayman Island and Swiss bank accounts used by Romney to avoid paying US taxes.

    August 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  15. Richard Broderick, Jr.

    Hey Mitt, now that you have told us about your taxes, what is the reason you don't disclose the returns?

    Shouldn't your returns show how people like you are overtaxed and in need of another tax cut as you propose?

    Shouldn't your own returns prove your point, Mitt?

    August 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  16. 123Start

    The key in the offer (and that's what Romney can not disclose): "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.". Can we have commander-in-chief keeping money overseas in tax shelters? I don't think so.

    August 17, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  17. tsb610

    Romney's silence and refusal speak volumes. I am amazed that he has any support from the many people who will be hurt by his policies.

    August 17, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  18. Anonymous

    "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."

    Mitt claims $77,000 per horse and you people can only claim $1,000 per child.

    August 17, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  19. Sandy

    googleman

    Why doesn't Romeny just say "i'll make you a deal Mr. President – you release your college transcripts and I'll release my tax returns". Why is everyone asking what the president is hide?
    _______________

    Romney won't ask for that because he doesn't want to look like a fool, like you do. He can't ask for something he hasn't produced himself. Obama is asking Romney to produce the same thing Obama produced, nothing more.

    August 17, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  20. Anonymous

    you people are willing to accept anything from romney who think we owe him the presidency because he is rich. you thought the same thing about the do nothing congress we have now who promise JOBS, but they are so busy trying to defeat President Obama they are hurting the whole country including you nuts. yes romney should release 5 years or more of his taxes for tranparency. President Obama should give them NOTHING. Now take that to the bank!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 17, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  21. n222s

    Why shouldn't capital gains be taxed at a higher rate? Simple, the rate is lower to incentivize more investment. Tax rates are considered when making investments at the level of a Warren Buffett. A tax rate at, say, 35% on capital gains cause people to invest in other investment vehicles or other countries or not at all. You may not like the rate at which Warren Buffett is taxed but you like it when he comes in, strengthens a company and makes it financially viable. Folks, lets stop pretending there isn't a price to every policy. Let me tell you about the rich. Take 20% more of Warren Buffett's money? Well, he decides not to stay at a resort that employs people. Or he doesn't buy a new yacht made by average workers. He decides not to buy a show horse that average people care for and are employed by the stable. Or he decides that investing in that US company doesn't make financial sense any more. Do you think Buffett will be harmed by taking 20% more of his income? Nope, he'll get by. But when he decides to spend less in the US, who do you think will really be harmed?

    August 17, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  22. Sniffit

    "You see the tax release issue we have been rattling about has not caught on."

    Polls show a majority of th epublic wants to see them...but that's ok...you tell yourself whatever you need to in order to feel secure in yoru own little reality bubble. We'll still try to protect yoru interests even if you won't do so for yourself.

    August 17, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. justicenonexistent

    I don’t care about Romney’s taxes. I don’t care about Obama’s transcripts. I didn’t care about Obama’s birth certificate.

    I care about – jobs, fiscal responsibility, gdp growth, less government and less regulation, less welfare, more personal responsibility, a viable option to the dinosaurs Medicare and Social Security, security in and out of our borders, and less division and hatred.

    So far, Obama hasn’t delivered any of those and he hasn’t presented a plan to tell me how he will. Romney on the other hand has a plan that is based on sound principles and fiscal responsibility that could very well do all of those things.

    Right now Obama and all the dems remind me of the dog in the movie “Up.” “to better the economy, I will….Romney.” “to encourage job growth, I will….Romney” Focus Obama, focus…..

    Romney/Ryan 2012 and beyond

    August 17, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  24. Deb in MT

    My goodness. The Romney campaign had a chance to take the focus off his secretive nature by making a deal, and just wouldn't do it. So, now we all get to keep speculating on just what Mittens is hiding: did he accept the tax amnesty deal in 2009 for his mysterious foreign accounts; did he committ tax fraud & voting fraud when he ran for MA Gov (claiming a tax break on his Utah mansion as a full time resident, while claiming to be a full time MA resident so he could run for office & vote there)?

    Inquiring minds still want to know: what are you hiding, you frightened little man?

    Meanwhile–to Mr. Rhoades and the rest of Mittens' entourage–thanks for playing!

    August 17, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  25. WV

    Are we going to decide who should be elected President based on their tax returns or by the policies they wish to enact people? This whole tax return thing is just one big distraction; he's not going to do it so let's just move on and talk about what really is affecting the American people.

    August 17, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
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