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.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

"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.

- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama • Taxes
soundoff (1,465 Responses)
  1. Term Limits 42

    We should push to have all of congress, the white house and cabinet to make their returns public on an annual basis. This tact by Obama is noting more than a distraction. Surely the intellectually honest know that 14% of Romneys income is enormously moreread revenue than anyones 36%, even if they are in the nuevo rich class of evil rich earners making $250,000+ a year. Effective Tax Rate percentages mean absolutely nothing unless it is within the same class of income. Beyond that, how you manipulate tax law is between you and the IRS. If you're too ignorant to take advantage of it then the IRS is more than happy to take more from you. That's the way the current law is designed and that is why we need TAX REFORM.

    August 17, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    I don;t know what could be the reason behind hiding this except maybe Romney obviously is heavily invested in China. Manchurian candidate anyone?

    August 17, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  3. nickn

    So he's a 1%-er that is avoiding tax disclosure, while championing tax breaks for his fellow 1%-ers.......................yet he has the poor and some of the shrinking middle class supporting him?! WHILST he champions the cause that breaks their backs while making him richer. Seriously...how can the US citizens support there own oppression at the hands of the rich....some set of tricks they have running.

    August 17, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  4. Woman In California

    IF the tax returns are such a "non-issue, please explain why Willard asked for "multiple" returns from everyone who was seeking the VP position? Obviously, tax returns are important to him and he also knows should he reveal his returns, his campaign is OVER so why are you defending a man who ask of others what he is NOT willing to give himself? Hypocrites.

    August 17, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. ARam

    I am truly amazed at the people who think Romney is a trustworthy candidate. I think the most obvious and simple solution is to show his taxes. If Romney really wants to focus on the economy and stop the distractions around it than release your taxes. Am I missing something here? Can one of the republicans here explain why wouldn't Romney release his taxes, if he's not hiding anything, and go after Obama on the economy with no distractions. Don't you think this would make his path a lot easier to the White House? He is hiding something and something big, it's common sense people!!!

    August 17, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. Voice of Reason

    by Jeff Simon on August 8th, 2012

    The big deal about Obama’s college records are not his grades — it is whether they show that he was a foreign exchange student.

    Some speculation:

    very hard to get in to Harvard and other schools he attended
    need very good grades
    he did not have good grades
    however, grades are waived for foreign exchange students

    Food for thought.

    So have Romney give up tax records in exchange for release of all Obama’s records, including high school, college applications, transcripts, passports.

    Why would Obama spend a reputed $4 million to protect the privacy of these records? What is he hiding?

    August 17, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Interesting that the right - those fiscal hawks that helped crash our economy - are not insisting Mitt show his tax returns.

    The entire crash of 2007 - one could argue - is directly related to our tax system. No doubt this is what Mitt Romney is trying to hide. Those investments of his that helped caused the economy to plummet.

    Apparently this isn't as important to the deficit hawks as Obama's college years are.

    Perhaps Mr. Romney could once again drag out his whiteboard and explain our tax codes all to you people using himself as reference point.

    August 17, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. MesaMom

    Mitt's tax returns are relevant because it might change how people vote if they know he has profited from sending American jobs overseas. I assume he has because of his unwillingness to release the returns. He has to hiding something.

    August 17, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  9. RobK

    How about if the President releases his college transcripts, the Fast and Furious documents that Congress wants, details on whether the White House coordinated Harry Reid's accusations, and documents regarding White House involvement in the Special Ops leaks?

    August 17, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. strangerq

    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..........


    Agreed. I call them the Robme/Lyin' ticket.

    August 17, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  11. Cedar Rapids

    "GripDog – Would also like to know how a community organizer making $12,000 could afford a Million plus dollar and become a millionaire with no real job?"

    er because despite fools like you claiming he never had a real job he was actually also a lawyer for 10 years and a professor. Thanks how.

    August 17, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. HighMtnMan

    Romney won't release them no matter what. It's obvious that he's hiding a LOT and if he releases his tax returns, the whole country will see how he's been cheating the system for so many years. It's pretty obvious. Either way, it's kinda funny to see all the Republicans in "panic mode" as evidenced by their childish and completely uninformed comments. I mean really? Name calling? Supporting obvious lies and "out of context" comments? Really??? The writing is on the wall as Romney's ratings are dropping at a rapid pace. People just don't trust him because of his lack of transparency, and he's hiding so much from the public – and it's crystal clear he's hiding a LOT. Maybe republicans will do a little better background check on their candidate in 2016?

    August 17, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. M-W-T

    My gut tells me that there's something REALLY WRONG with this guy....
    I Don't TRUST him
    I don't like him

    August 17, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. simp


    What in the heck are you talking about? First you need to learn how to make a complete sentence before you try to slam the President of the United States. Your blog is laughable, just like the rest of the haters out there, President Obama is too intellengent for idiots like you!!

    August 17, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. Howard

    BRAVO MR. ROMNEY ... You can't make a deal with the DEVIL.
    Obama and his culture of corruption doesn't understand that you
    can't cheat an honest man.
    Save America ... Dump Obama
    Romney & Ryan in 2012 !!!

    August 17, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  16. Bryan

    Romney says he paid 13% and with the charity it went up above 20%. Well the last that I knew charitable contributions were a deduction, how did his rate go up?

    August 17, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  17. Cedar Rapids

    "Voice of Reason – it is whether they show that he was a foreign exchange student."

    Ok, once again....the story of Obama being a foreign exchange student is a known april fools gag that apparently some people still believe is real.

    "Why would Obama spend a reputed $4 million to protect the privacy of these records? What is he hiding?"

    its up to 4 million now is it? you guys keep claiming all sorts of figures and not one person has ever been able to provide an actual source for that figure. Maybe you can finally do it for us.

    August 17, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  18. RAWoD

    I wonder if Mittens problem is not the tax rate he paid but deductions for contributions he made. What would the right-wingers think if they found Mittens had contributed to planned parenthood, NORML, and NAMBLA?

    August 17, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  19. Independent

    Romney will make a deal – If Eric Holder releases Fast & Furious docs and Obama releases his sealed under grad records he will release his tax records for his entire lifetime! What are Holder & Obama hiding?
    Some are so worried about what Romney does with HIS money but does not give a hoot about how Obama is wasting THEIR tax money! That shows the level of intelligence of the ones who call for Romney’s tax records!

    August 17, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  20. Kyle

    Romney can't be trusted. How does this man want to govern the entire country,but yet he can't release tax returns. We already know there is some shady business deals he's been involved with, but I guess we will never know to what degree....it's scary to think of a Romney presidency. Never thought someone could be worse than good ole GW, but Romney scares the living daylights out of me.

    August 17, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  21. sumguy2006

    @tct, I would think that almost all of his income was from carried interest, and income from investments. That's how he ends up paying a 15% or less tax rate after charitable deductions. We might no like it, but that's how our tax code is written. It's no fault of his.

    August 17, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  22. Independent

    Voice of Reason – you hit the nail in the head!

    August 17, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    r.lynn wrote on page 27:

    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
    I have bad news for you. If records show that Barack Obama was a student in the US attending college on a student visa, it does not mean that he's ineligible to be POTUS. I suggest that you read the US Constitition, instead of repeating right wing conspiracy theories. There are three basic requirements.

    1. You must be a natural born US citizen.
    2. You must be at least 35 years of age.
    3. You must be a US citizen for at least the last 14 years.

    Can you see the point? A person could have been born in the US, and taken by their parent as a toddler to live in another country for 20 years. It makes no difference if the parents gave US citizenship or not, as you will see. The young person could have come to the US on a student visa, as per the conspiracy theory. The person graduates from college, and re-instates their US citizenship, assuming that it was surrendered. Some 20 years later the individual decides to run for POTUS, and is ELIGIBLE to do so under the US Constitution.

    Don't like it? Don't argue with me. Take it up with the US Constitution. The college transcript thing is just a battle cry to rally those who would rather be told what to think, than have the guts and smarts to think for themselves.

    August 17, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. NoTags

    If Romney wasn't hiding something, he would have already released his tax returns. This issue is not going away and he will pay the price on November 6th.

    August 17, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  25. drake mallard

    After all, Bain wasn't in the business of creating jobs, it was in the business of making money

    if the church laundered the money and then acts a a PAC for a candidate this may not be unlawful, but is not a normal activity for a church as I see it, and the stock owner thus also avoids the capital gains tax. I think this is tacky at best and downright dishonest as far as I am concerned

    August 17, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59