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. rs

    If tax returns are good enough for Mr. Romney in determining who will be his VP, then they ought to be good enoughfor we, the voters, to see if he is a sutable candidate for President. To all you out there repeating the Republican lies and birther silliness ("we don't know Obama), I'd think you would want to fully vet Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan (lest you get stuck with another Bush).

    August 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  2. Dumbpolitics

    Mr. Romney, it's called trust. Now it's about 7 out of 10 people don't trust you because of your refusal.

    August 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain: Under the Ryan Plan, Romney Pays 0.87% in taxes

    Mittens is running on his "record" as a "businessman" and says things like "I want everyone to be rich" (Sept. 22, 201; check it out on YouTube).

    So, release your tax records, so we can all benefit from your expertise on making money!

    Unless, of course, you have something to hide ....

    August 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  4. LMC

    It's about honesty and integrity and I don't think Romney has any. He is a slick snake oil salesman.

    August 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Have you heard of the latest Republican voter suppression efforts in swing state of Ohio? Republican lawmakers in Ohio have decided to shorten voting hours but only in predominantly Democratic districts. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has implemented different voting rules for different arears of Ohio. In areas which favor Democrats, early voting will be limited to 8am to 5pm on weekdays only. But according to Tucson Citizen, "the rural and suburban areas, rich in republican votes get extended evening early voting hours and weekends to boot. Can voter suppression get any more obvious?" We often send election officials overseas to monitor elections in third world countries to ensure that elections are fair and that voter fraud is not committed but in the so-called greatest democracy in the world, voter fraud is more prevalent and extreme than in any other country in the world. Well, only in America.

    August 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. Tammy

    I wish my husband and I could pay only 13% in taxes. Wow – maybe then I could actually afford to send my kids to college without amassing a ton of debt that I'll be paying on forever because we are the lucky ones – orherwise known as middle class.

    August 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  7. Jim

    Can Obama produce a tax return at all ? I mean not ever having a legitimate job and all......

    August 17, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. Redleg

    Romeny has already been caught lying in the past about his tax returns. He has lied about his role at Bain Capital., if you can believe his signature.

    August 17, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  9. vrajavala

    Exchane from Obama: his collwge records.

    August 17, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. ghostriter

    Onegreatnation, you are mistaken. That is the Rubio plan, which is very similiar to what Obama has done. Romney supported it.

    You are the one falling for the hype. You are complaining about what Obama did when republicans have signed off on the same thing already. Get mad at your govt. Both sides.

    August 17, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. Peter

    Tom wrote: "Why are people more worried about Romney's own money then what gonvernment does with ours?"

    Because Romney wraps himself in the whole "Republican/Patriot package". Let's see what a mega-rich guy like Romney actually DOES with all that money. Where does it go? Does he re-invest in the USA? Lets find out. This will also help to bust the myth that the mega-rich use their money to create jobs in the USA, etc etc etc.

    August 17, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. Learntoread

    "Everybodys Got Something To Hide 'cept for Me and my Monkey...." (John Lennon 1970 The White Album.)... Me thinks The Romster is hiding the 2008 NO TAX specifically....Good to be RICH!, Mr Romney!!!!! btw got to love the photo shoots with Paul in his work out gear–a guy who never played a sport in HS or college–who never went on the field to battle it out for the team and school pride is NOW "Mr Workout"!!!! yeah Baby!! ( and NEVER served his country either...oh well-that's the norm now-heck even Obama played hoops!..oh yeah and KNOCKED off Bin Laden)

    August 17, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. scott55

    Romney tell obama to talk about the issues and obama's lack of leadership. The president who promised transparency is a two faced liar. Hey obama where is your transparency?

    August 17, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    "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,"

    I thought Obama's camp wasn't "responsible" or had no control of what his super pac's ads put out? Guess just when it's convenient for him.

    August 17, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  15. Michael

    Why doesn't Romney agree to trade Obama's school & passport records for his tax returns? You would never hear about the tax rerturns again. They say Obama registered as a foreign exchange student at Columbia and Harvard. Why isn't a conservative Harry Reid bringing this up? Oh yeah, the media, including CNN would never report it!!

    August 17, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  16. rs

    realist- what about what Mr. romney is about to do with "our" money? Wreck the social safety net, kick the elderly and poor to the curb, and for what? To give the rich even more money! All this screeching about fiscal "conservatism", yet all Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are promising is crushing the poor and middle class and bankrupting America. We can't afford the rich and their lavish tax breaks anymore. To give himeslf a taxible rate of .84% (against a $22 million a year income) is simply obscene.

    August 17, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  17. OnceGreatNation

    Once you hear the 'snake oil" argument you know the well has run dry!! ROMNEY 2012.

    August 17, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  18. Mark

    Romney should release them. I would never vote for a candidate that is this adamant about hiding his finances.

    August 17, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  19. America First

    Here is a deal for Obama. Go back to Chicago now and we promise not to totally embarrass you in the election November 6!

    August 17, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. Stan

    If Obama is so worried about Mitts taxes then he better prove he is really an American with no forged documents.If he can't he just needs to shut his mouth.

    August 17, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  21. Marty

    Romney should release 4 years of tax info in exchange for Baracks alleged college transcripts.

    August 17, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  22. BHPT

    We've had 3 1/2 years to learn what Obama stands for. Even at this stage in this campaign we know very little about what Mitt Romney really stands for.
    Keep up the pressure, Media. Justice will be served – one way or another.

    August 17, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  23. Neil

    This side show has nothing to do with the incredibly poor performance of President Obama over his first term. High unemployment, bail outs and stimulus spreading with horrible results, and a campaign based on lies and suggested wrong doing by any and all opponents, even when he was running against fellow Democrats! You want to talk about honesty, you want to talk about civility, you want to talk about the real issues facing the miserable outlook on the future of this country, then it IS a time for change. A change from this administration to one that has solutions and is willing to focus and talk about them, not just mud sling and try to use lawyer tactics of doubt and fear. Romney/Ryan 2012.

    August 17, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  24. ghostriter

    Romney in 1994:

    Romney: The blind trust is an age old ruse, if you will, which is to say, you can always tell a blind trust what it can and can not do. You give a blind trust rules.

    August 17, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  25. Robert Warner

    This campaign is largely about whether to increase taxes on the rich. The taxes that one of the richest men in our country, who wants to be President and in control of our tax policies, is just about the MOST relevant issues in this election. Compound that with Romney being a known tax cheat (see Romney, Marriot and Son Of Boss tax swindle) and you have the Republicans biggest mistake since Goldwater.

    August 17, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
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