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. tct

    Unfortunately any release wouldn't address my concern, how much of his success is due to carried interest reducing his taxes. Long term gains and charitable giving are breaks that serve a purpose, unfortunately carried interest is classified as long term gains.

    August 17, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. Fair is Fair

    Malory Archer

    I have investments too – CDs and guess what? The dividents aren't considered "capital gains" and therefore are subject to my full 22%.
    Malory, Malory...

    First of all, CD's offer guaranteed rate of return and a guarantee of no loss of principal up to $250,000 per account. They pay interest and are considered "ordinary income". Ordinary income is taxed at the same rates as "earned income", but is not subject to Medicare and SS Tax.

    Capital Gains are the difference between the "basis" of the asset being sold (e.g. what the individual paid for the asset) versus the sale price. There is NO guaranteed rate of return nor any guarantee of the original principal. This element of risk is rewarded with a lower tax rate on the gain, IF THERE IS ONE. The intent is to keep capital flowing into business for R&D and expansion.

    And hate to tell you this, Hon... you stated earlier that your household "just cracks 6 digits", and here you say you pay 22%. IF you're REALLY paying 22%, you need to find a better tax preparer. I assume you mean 22% federal effective rate, because if in that 22% you're including State, Medicare, and SS tax, you're being somewhat deceitful with your statements.

    August 17, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  3. biggal195

    I'm more than a little peeved that Messina even offered the deal. Offering a "deal" gives the appearance of weakness. As these people keep saying about Iran's nuclear program, "nothing should be off the table!"

    August 17, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  4. Q

    Just because he lied about his tax disclosures when Gov. and had to amend them, that is no reason not to take his word for it now. This guy is a joke and has no chance..........

    August 17, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  5. Bern in Western PA

    I almost feel bad for Mittens. You know he's hiding something and he's powerless to stop the criticism that will cost him the election. We can't tolerate a president who is this secretive and aloof. The man has more positions than the kama Sutra.

    August 17, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  6. susansbaker

    Your name should have changed to Silly, Obama was a high school dropped out, but selected be a editor of Harvard Law Review, a lawyer prof, got elected into senate, and a president later.
    Right, he lied all about all his educations, why didn't Harvard sue him? Get over it!

    August 17, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  7. Jeff in San Diego

    I'm a voter and Romney's taxes are an issue to me. His own father, George Romney, said that candidates who don't release their returns to the public lack integrity, vital to the role of president.

    August 17, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. Justin Time

    Romney and his wife never specifically mentioned income taxes. That 13% number may include property and sales taxes for all we know. It seems clear they have no intention of releasing any more tax returns, even if it costs him the election. He's probably hiding a tax amnesty deal with the IRS regarding his Swiss bank account(s).

    August 17, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. LindaA.-c-ville

    Romney knows that once he releases more tax returns, the dems will cherry-pick some deductions that sound bad to Joe AverageGuy, but are perfeclty legit. Probably hundreds of items on his returns. Probably done all the time by high-income folk. All legit. All what you & I would also do if we had his income and had hired accountants to do it for us.

    August 17, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Well I'm glad that's settled...now on to other things, like WHEN IS ROMNEY GOING TO RELEASE HIS TAX RETURNS?!?!?!?!

    August 17, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  11. Nobama 2.0

    Why Obama is so fascinated with Romney's tax return? Is Obama campaigning for IRS auditor or POTUS?

    August 17, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. Pam from Iowa

    He never paid less than 13% !! Wow! I wish I could pay only 13% federal income tax!!!
    It is time to raise the ceiling on capital gains! Only the rich benefit from the low tax rate on investment income.
    The average Amercan has no money to invest and therefore never sees such a low rate!
    And we all know those people reaping the rewards DO NOT CREATE JOBS! They horde their money!

    August 17, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. Greg

    I just don't understand.

    Ok, so Romney's father released more than a decade's worth of tax returns. Ok, an interesting and transparent gesture.
    However, there is no law stating that a candidate MUST release their returns at all, let alone for that long of a period (maybe there should be, but that's a different discussion).

    Romney's biggest problem is antithetical to the US mantra of "innocent until proven guilty."
    Which, I'm 150% confident, that if the IRS had dirt on Romney, we'd have known about it LONG ago.

    August 17, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  14. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    Good Lord ... what is the obsession with Obama's university records? The man is clearly earned and achieved the degrees which have been conferred on him by the institutions he attended. There really isn't much of a comparison between school records and tax records ... isn't it comparing apples and oranges? Frankly, the tax records means more to me as an expat voter.

    August 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  15. Don

    Of COURSE they said no. This is pretty funny – Obama has him right where he wants him. Romney is trying to hide his offshore dealings, that's why he doesn't want to release his taxes. I'll bet everything he did was legal, but would still get people upset. It would show that he is anything BUT a patriot.

    August 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Robert Warner wrote on page 26:

    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. .................
    Actually, one side is advocating to RAISE taxes on the wealthy, while the other side is advocating to CUT taxes on the wealthy. In Mitt Romney's case, the Romney/Ryan Plan would reduce Romney's tax obligations to under 1%, which is fully aligned with Paul Ryan's Ayn Rand ideology that says protect the rich at all costs.

    In fact, the Romney/Ryan Plan is a complete scam when it comes to doing what Ryan claims it will. Ryan claims that he's cutting spending, which implies that he's cutting the annual deficit. Ryan claims that he will balance the budget, which implies that he's, which implies that he's cutting the national debt. Yet when asked what would his annual deficit be if his plan were enacted next year he replies, "We haven't run the numbers, yet." He's either a quack, a liar, or both.

    August 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  17. Larry

    Let's make a deal on Birth Certificates - THE REAL ONES

    August 17, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  18. FredKelly

    Romney should take the offer. He'll release 5 years of tax returns in exchange for Obama releasing 4 years of his academic records.

    August 17, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  19. tyrone

    man, whatever. who gives a f## about this dudes tax returns. Barack have the IRS audit the dude if u care so much.

    August 17, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "A change from this administration to one that has solutions and is willing to focus and talk about them,"

    And you think Mittens has talked about solutions? The guy has provided ZERO concrete details and specifics on his proposed budget solutions and alleged plans for Medicare that he claims are different than what was in Ryan's budget, which was pased twice by the GOP and which Mittens promised he would sign if it hit his desk. The only thing we've got is some vague parameters and a few minor details that already show that his plans would require increasing taxes on the middle-class. Now, he's running around claiming he'll add back to the budget $700B+ in Medicare SAVINGS, which would require him to cut even more from the societal safety net in order to balance the budget. Sorry, but Mittens isn't talking about "solutions." He's talking about what he thinks you want to hear.

    August 17, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. TPF

    Obama's got to go, he is not a leader at all.

    August 17, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  22. Nobama 2.0

    Obama, I offer you a deal: resign as POTUS now and get a job as IRS auditor, I am sure you can see all of Romney's tax returns ..

    August 17, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  23. jk in MN

    Me thinks Mitt protesteth too much. He's obviously hiding something he doesn't want the rest of America to see such as how Congress and the wealthy they cater to have perverted the Tax Code to the benefit of a few and the hell with the rest of America. How can anyone who is not in the top 10% of wealthy Americans even consider voting for Mitt without full disclosure. There was a news report I heard last night that Mitt lied about filing a tax return in Massachusetts when he ran for Governor. I thinks there's fire behind that smoke screen he's trying to put up.

    August 17, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. SeeTheLight

    First it was, he never paid taxes – he might be a FELON.....
    Then it was, he didn't pay taxes for the last 10 years....
    Now it's – he paid a low rate...

    I think the counter offer to this new begging tactic should be – No, and just leave the WH when you lose in Nov.

    This Administration still has nothing positive, as far as accomplishments to hold onto, or offer.

    August 17, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. Joe

    Obama gets hassled continuously over his birth certificate but this guy says taxes aren't important? The double standard is hilarious.

    August 17, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
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