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. r.lynn

    Oh...and let's also find out how Obama really paid for college and if it involved student loans or grants as a foreign citizen

    August 17, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  2. The People want to know

    People are curious about Romney and his taxes. People are curious about Obama and his college transcripts. How about a deal? Romney releases 5 more years of tax returns and in return, Obama releases his college transcripts. Sounds fair to me.

    August 17, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  3. DMR

    Mr. Romney, it is clearly evident you are a member of the most wealthy elite in the U.S., if not the world. The sad part is you refuse to support how you paid your taxes and on what. Increasingly it appears you and Mr. Ryan are little more than puppets for those that are even more wealthy than you. Pathetic. The precedent established by Mr. Romney's father, of twelve years worth of tax returns is fair. Failure to do so indicates there is something to hide. While it may not have been illegal conduct, it may have been unethical or worse, something that would clearly not play well with "Main Street America" such as huge off-shore tax shelters.

    August 17, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  4. Sally

    Why is it that some of the public are screaming for Romney to release tax returns, but there isn't the same hue and cry for Obama to release his college transcripts? Why did it take months to find out about Michelles thesis (that slammed the white population). They need to stay on point...
    Get off the tax question gentlemen and tell us how you are going to fix this economic debacle. The best "fix" I can think of is term limits for all politicians. A 46 year term in the senate is ludicrous.

    August 17, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  5. Blind Trust

    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".

    “The blind trust is an age-old ruse.” - Mitt Romney, 1994

    But just how blind are such "blind" trusts, anyway? According to Mitt Romney himself, they are a "ruse." In Romney’s case, apparently not quite blinkered enough to keep his trustee—who is also his personal lawyer and longtime friend Bradford Malt—from investing more than $10 million of Romney’s money in an investment fund managed by Romney’s son Taggart, Solamere.

    That's a blind trust allright, investing in your own family and the whole world knows about it. Maybe it's not completely blind after all, maybe it's just got one eye open and the other one is not closed.

    August 17, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  6. MMcMahon

    I think the real reason the issue of Romney's refusal to release his tax returns won't go away is because Romney himself has said that he will pay for his proposed massive tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans by eliminating tax loopholes.

    But which loopholes will Romney eliminate? HE REFUSES TO SAY. Which raises the obvious question: will he close the loopholes that HE uses to hide millions in foreign accounts and offshore tax shelters? Or does he only intend to eliminate deductions and credits that OTHER people use., e.g., the ones that middle-class families rely on?

    This is why Romney's secrecy is so maddening: We have no idea if his tax plan is a shamefully self-serving one that keeps the loopholes used by millionaires like him while cutting the ones used by middle-class families, since he refuses to release his returns (even his 2010 one is incomplete) and since he refuses to say anything SPECIFIC about his tax plan.

    This seems to be his strategy: Just don't say anything, don't admit to anything, don't divulge any specifics about anything–and hope that people just dislike the President enough to vote for anyone else.

    August 17, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. pprty

    Romney is forcing his taxes to be an issue by not showing his taxes and being done with it.

    August 17, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. JC in Western U.S.

    This issue is bringing down his campaign, and he knows it. Being stubborn doesn't begin to explain his behavior.

    August 17, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  9. Jeff - Sarasota, Florida

    Ok, correect me if I am wrong, but MOST HONEST people that have someone accuse them of something produce the truth...

    IF Mitt Romney is legitimate with his taxes why won't he show them and stop all the accusations once and for all...

    Does that mean he is NOT HONEST about his returns... Or does that mean he isn't smart enough to realize this will go away if he releases them and they are right...

    Either way it shows he is either dishonest or isn't smart enough to realize releasing them will make it go away...

    So, dishonest or dumb, is this who we want for a president???

    August 17, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  10. Lisa P


    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
    If you argue that Mitt Romney paid his fair share of taxes because he paid what was required of him by law (though of course it is still to be determined whether or not he *did* pay what was required of him by law) then you have to agree that other Americans who legally paid no taxes also paid their fair share, because that's how the law is written. You can't give a pass to the millionaire who (legally, we'll presume) stashes money in foreign accounts to reduce his federal tax burden while excoriating his employee who doesn't make enough in a year to have a federal income tax liability on top of what he pays to FICA and Social Security out of every single pay check. They are both just following the law as currently written. Which stinks, by the way, and which Mitt Romney wants to make stink even more. But that is a different subject.

    August 17, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  11. Anthony

    The difference between transcripts and tax returns is this. Obama is the first presidential candidate and president who is being asked to produce his transcripts. After Romney's father, George Romney, set the example of releasing 12 years of his tax returns in 1968, every presidential candidate has released his tax returns. Romney will be the first presidential candidate since his father to refuse to release his tax returns.

    Romney is not legally required to release his tax returns. But voters are not required to trust him, or vote for him. Since Romney is running a campaign of no details, voters are not inclined to believe that Romney has actual plans to solve the nation's problems.

    August 17, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  12. Nobama 2.0

    Why Obama keeps trying to distract American people by focus on Romney's tax return? I am sure IRS will go after Romney if he paid a penny less than required by law, after all, that's what IRS suppose to do.

    No wonder Obama is not a leader and has such a terrible records, all he can think is Romney's tax. Come on, America faces more problems than one person's tax return. Maybe Obama should be an IRS auditor instead of POTUS.

    August 17, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  13. susansbaker

    It's funny he said yesterday that only small minded people concerned about his tax returns. Did he insult his father a small minded person as well? A quote from his own father:

    "Release of the document, while it might serve a political purpose, would not prove very much, he argued. One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show, and what mattered in personal finance was how a man conducted himself over the long haul."

    Someone should remind him what his father taught him. This guy doesn't have an oz of decency from both of his parents.

    August 17, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  14. Nobama 2.0

    Is Obama campaigning for IRS auditor or POTUS?

    August 17, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. Name chris nnadede

    To be the economic boss of USA we your subjects like to see your tax returns so we may learn from the bests how tbe game is played. How can a thief be president of this fine country that the whole world is looking upon?

    August 17, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  16. Ben

    I heard Obama failed economics three times in college before giving up on learning how it all works, and instead just makes random guesses.

    August 17, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Anonymous


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

    Yes, definitely get rid of the horse. And in fact all horses should be set free and we shouldn't spend a dime on any of them. It isn't fair that I can't own a horse. The stables that employe US citizens. The people who make equipment. The people who provide feed. The people who depend upon the income provided by the stables should just go to heck!

    If the people who depend upon the wealthy for their income have to be harmed, well, that's okay because that is what is fair.

    Choosing between a horse or a child? Going to have to go with the child on this one. Mitt Romney can well afford to feed, equip, and house a horse - with or without claiming it as a business deduction.

    August 17, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  18. Voice of Reason

    Obama should sweeten the deal and offer his college transcripts and college financial aid records. I think Romney will take that for his 5 years of tax records. It's the fair thing to do.

    August 17, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. cre8tiv

    How is that promise even possible when supposedly there is no connection between the campaign and the SuperPacs? It's either an empty promise since any group outside of the Obama campaign can say anything they want, or they are saying they have more control over what the superPacs advertise than they should.

    I would like to decide who to vote for.. it would be nice to talk about something that will actually affect me and most other voters in the next four years. I'm at a loss to see how either candidates tax returns or college transcripts have much bearing on that.

    August 17, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  20. Barry In Las Vegas

    Wouldn't it be great if Obama spent as much time trying to fix the economy to help people get jobs as he does trying to look at Romney's tax returns? Of course CNN and the MSM have to play along to take the focus off of the real issues we are interested in as running defense for Obama.

    Why wasn't CNN as diligent in trying to get Obama's college records? Oops – he's a Democrat.

    August 17, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  21. Tomcat

    As a registered republican and not a supporter of Pres Obama, Romeny/Ryan will NOT get my vote unless those tax returns are released to the American public. Period!

    August 17, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  22. Jackson

    Bottom line....

    When running for the Senate in 1994, Romney demanded that his opponent release his tax records, saying "the public has a right to know".

    So, Mitt, if you *truly* believed that, why aren't you respecting your own beliefs?

    If you cannot respect your own beliefs, how can a nation trust you to lead?

    August 17, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. crush

    I'll bet he got money back. Like GE who figured out a way to not just avoid taxes, but got a refund during a record sales year. Donuts to dollars. He got a refund on his millions.

    August 17, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  24. Phauxnewz

    enough about college transcripts! That happened over 20 years ago. We want Romney to show what he's done in the last 5 years. I don't even care what Romney did in college. He's hiding something big in his taxes.

    August 17, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    zizewitz wrote on page 24:

    ..... To avoid lengthy and costly investigations and lawsuits, the IRS then offered an amnesty for the US account holders which collaborated and ROMNEY made use of it by paying retroactively the corresponding taxes without further legal consequences ........
    There's that word, "retroactively", popping up again in Mitt Romney's background. He retired "retroactively" from Bain Capital. He had to "retroactively" file MA state income tax returns AFTER he was caught in a lie saying that he filed as taxes in MA as a resident when in fact he had not. I wonder what other lies Romney is going to have to fix "retroactively."

    August 17, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
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