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. Tax_return_Birther

    Mitt Romney has to tithe 10% to the Mormon church, right? So the church gets to see his tax returns, or do they just TRUST Mitt to give them a solid number?
    Mitt's Tax returns are important to show how he has used loopholes to hide income. I would think the Mormon church would have an active interest to see if Mitt has been skimping on tithing to the church the way he likes to shortchange the government on taxes.

    August 17, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  2. zoyster1

    Hey Obama, how about talking about your failed Marxist policies and the Great Recession that you started instead? Romney's tax returns from 5 or 10 years ago is inconsequential.

    August 17, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  3. Anonymous

    Let me see if I understand. Mitt is accused of not paying income taxes for the last few years prior to the 2010 return he has released. Mitt then swears that he has paid no less than 13% tax during those years. Mitt does not say he paid the 13% in income taxes, just in taxes. If you add up property taxes, gasoline taxes and all the other fees and charges that Republicans claim are taxes, that would be about 13%. And Romney may not have paid a dime in income tax during those years after all. Now the administration is offering to stop bothering Mitt about taxes if he will just release the five years prior to 2010. Mitt still refuses.
    To the untrained eye it would appear that Mitt could well be speaking an untruth about his taxes. Of course, as a retired aircraft worker, I am already ticked off that Mitt pays a lower tax rate than I and my wife do.

    August 17, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  4. Steve Obama-HOUSTON

    Romney is an elitist to the core. He will not release his tax records and it will be another reason on top of many as to why he will never be elected to POTUS. If there is nothing to hide, then there should be no problem in releasing the taxes. If he really cared about talking about substinative issues then this would have been put to bed months ago. This man has a shady past and is very crafty. Over 50% of those polled would like for him to release his taxes, so it is not just "a few" Democrats. There are also people in his own party requesting that he release them. The tax issue is not a distraction, Romney's entire campaign is a distraction! He should do everyone a favor and just drop out. OBAMA 2012

    August 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  5. Faith

    Maybe if Obama said: "I'll release my college records and medical records" – then I think Romney should consider.

    August 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  6. NorCalMojo

    Transcripts for tax returns seems a fair deal.

    August 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  7. OnceGreatNation

    Sniffit – continue to believe the liberal party line and the fuzzy math you're using to justify it but tell me this, why do the illegal deserve more than our citizens? Why do they have a right to simply jump ahead of all of those would be immigrants following the law? Why should legal Americans have to compete for education, jobs, etc with people that are breaking our nations laws? Actually, dont tell me, I have had enough of the blind liberal explanations and excuses.

    August 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  8. bigdoglv

    I don't remember all this "the rich is bad" approach when John Kerry was running. And I am old enough to remember the JFK run in 1960. The Kerry's and the Kennedy's money makes Mitts look like pocket change. Why now is it so bad to be successful?

    August 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  9. Kris

    Do you people even know what a "blind trust" is? The Romney's have stated that their money has been in one since 2002, so by admonishing them about their returns you are basically blaming them for the actions of the entity that managed their "blind trust".

    August 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  10. paulr50

    Let's see your college records Barry Sotero.

    August 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  11. Eric

    How is that a "deal"? A deal usually has something in it for both parties. So Obama's camp says they'll "back off" if he just does what they want? That sounds like Chicago thuggery – not a deal. How about THIS Obama... instead of spending $4M to conceal whatever it is lies within your school records, passport records, etc... how about YOU release those documents. I don't think the vast majority of Americans give a DAMN what Mitt paid in his taxes. If the IRS hasn't come after him for it, I have no concern... and neither should anyone else. If he paid $1 or $10M – it was what the law required of him, and he followed it. STUPID, stupid, stupid arguments here... let's sit around like school children and debate how much Mitt paid in frigging taxes... meanwhile our economy is going to hell in a handbasket. I think Mr. PRESIDENT should get his priorities straight and start talking about what he plans to do if GRANTED a second term versus eating up our precious time listening to his childish attacks on an opponent that OBVIOUSLY scares him.

    August 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  12. incredulous

    Yesterday Romney said that people who wanted to see his tax returns are "small minded." He must not be reading the polls or he would see that there are millions of people out there who want those returns. Note to Romney, those people vote and they're probably not going to vote for you.

    August 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  13. Anonymous

    "I care about – jobs, fiscal responsibility, gdp growth, less government and less regulation, less welfare, more personal responsibility,"

    Our tax laws actually coincide with fiscal responsibility and how well our government runs. Apparently you, as a Romney supporter, aren't as overly concerned as you suggest. Mitt has made a pot load of money, as have those in the same financial position as he sits today. One assumes our tax codes helped create that wealth. It would be nice to see just how that works ... purely on a "you people" voters level of interest.

    August 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. Tom

    Why are people more worried about Romney's own money then what gonvernment does with ours? Why is the press so bent on this? This is not an important issue. Jobs, spending, security, trade.... none of these issues are more importent to us? Sad. That is why we are so devided no one comes up with ideas about the real problems.

    August 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. PJ

    Show us the tax returns. The American people deserve this transparency.

    August 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  16. realist

    Romney 2012!! THis election is not about what Mitt has done with his money. It is about What Obama is about to do with our money!!!

    August 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  17. NO ROBME 2012!

    We really need to find those danged tax returns AND RELEASE THEM TO TEH AMERICAN PUBLIC

    August 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. Woman In California

    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.
    *************************

    Speak for yourself. I'm an independent who voted for him the last time and plan to do so this time also. Who are the Robme's to "tell us" what they will or will not do? They are asking us for a job / not the other way around. I hope the American people send them a message that we don't like him calling us "small minded" because we are demanding proof of his lies. Willard has gotten away with lies for far too long on this subject and we need to put a stop to them NOW. Release the tax returns.

    August 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  19. n222s

    "The rumor is that Romney took the 2009 tax amnesty for his Swiss bank accounts – that's why he was forthcoming to McCain in 2008 but not now"

    And if I said, without any proof, of your involvement with 2 hookers in a hotel room, that would okay? Or perhaps both of us shouldn't deal in rumors without proof.

    August 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  20. Obama 2012

    Obama did release his long form birth certificate When will you fools give it up!. Now......Williard release your tax returns.

    August 17, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  21. Not stupid19

    I don't understand how the same group of people that are still going after Obama for his birth certificate and other documentation have no problem with trusting Romney that all of his financials are on the up and up. Is it because Romney is rich and you think that rich people don't do anything wrong? When Obama first refused to show his birth certificate, this group of people assumed he was lieing and had something to hide but when Romney won't do what EVERY OTHER CANDIDATE SINCE HIS FATHER has done, it is not a big deal. Romney wants to be our President; how he handles his money is very relevant to the job he is applying for and the fact that he continues to refuse to provide additional information suggests he is hiding something.

    August 17, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  22. realist

    Romney 2012!! It is not about what Mitt has done with his money. It is more about what Obama is about to do with our money!!!

    August 17, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  23. MontanaSon

    Trade the tax returns for Reid's and Pelosi's. Maybe throw in Obama's school records. I'm sure we'd all have plenty to talk about for the next three months.

    August 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  24. ghostriter

    Republicans are hilarious. Birth certificates are important, but tax rates on a man wanting to lower his own tax rate is a distraction.

    August 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  25. GotChocolate

    Gotta love how the DemoCRAPS keep diverting the attention from the crappy economy. Let's talk about any and everything other than the fact that Obama is THE worst president EVER!

    August 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
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