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. superlogi

    The Obama Administration is only offering a blistering attack on Romney based on tax information they will use to position Romney as a vulture capitalist, primarily because they want to draw attention away from the mismanage of the Presidency for the last four years. And, the fact is, it's not their tax returns to offer. If I were Romney, I'd focus like a laser beam on my opponents incompetence and fiscal mismanagement. That and not Romney's wealth is the country's primary concern.

    August 17, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  2. chilly g

    the reason he don't want to release anymore information is because he don't want peoples to know how he has taken advantage of the system.

    August 17, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  3. Lmch

    Obama release your records!

    August 17, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  4. RealityBites

    Innuendo and hate are the tools of choice for those with no substance.

    August 17, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  5. American People

    The American People don't want to make deals with a cry baby rich person. We want to see 20 years worth of tax returns. We want to see how many jobs Mitt off-shored. And we want to see how much money Mitt has in off-shore accounts evading taxes. NO DEALS. Put up or shut up Mitt!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 17, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  6. Reggie19

    Obama and his campaign croonies think that they will outsmart Romney about his tax returns. NO DEAL!!!!!!!! When Obama unseals his college records then the tax returns will be relased. I do not trust these slimey democrat croonies. They will say one thing and do another. Fair is fair.....unseal Obama's records and then you get Romney's tax returns. Why should it be a one-sided thing....they feel Romney is hiding something then we also feel that Obama is hiding something so let everybody release all of their information and not just Romney. Why would Obama pay so much money to keep his college records sealed? What is there that he does not want the American people to know about him? The enquiring minds want to know!!!!!!!

    August 17, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  7. GrampaSez

    Can somebody point to where I can go to read Obama's TAX RETURNS for the 5 years BEFORE he entered public service? And the where are the details of his dealings with Rezko? And EXACTLY WHO financed his college education, and why do I have to take HIS WORD FOR IT? Obviously the man has a LOT to HIDE.

    August 17, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  8. Thomas

    I'm sure Ann Romney will speak for her husband.

    I personally don't want to loose the 70.000 tax deduction on my horse named " Votaire ".

    August 17, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  9. Jay T

    This is what is so agravating about the Pres. He backs off. Grow a spine. If you want to attack Romney on the returns, then keep going. Don't let him off the hook.

    August 17, 2012 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  10. RealityBites

    Shallow polling questions on issues outside constitutional requires for the precidency is a perfect example.

    August 17, 2012 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  11. Billy, NYC

    Please Romney DO NOT release any more Tax Returns. We already know the truth (you did not pay tax for 10 years).
    Keep it the secret and you still will be defeated by Obama becasue not only the tax returns, but also Paul Ryan's far right ideology. Sorry, you pick the wrong VP. Women hate him.

    August 17, 2012 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  12. Wil

    Let's raise the stakes and release the last 25 years of documents, school records, reports thesis, communist manifesto police report ect......... DO it Romney POTUS wrote how great it would be if Che was still alive. You know he did, they all did.

    August 17, 2012 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  13. demwit

    "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,"

    No worries.., we got your back Mr President..., right Kevin?

    August 17, 2012 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  14. SD

    Re Romney tax returns:

    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

    August 17, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  15. Should we call him Spiro Romney?

    Okay, Ann claims that there is "ammunition" in the tax returns.

    Is the ammunition merely distasteful, or is there actual criminality involved?

    Agnew had to resign the VP slot due to tax evasion. We need to know what the ammunition is, before it blows up.

    If Romney wins the election, we could be only one wikileak from having a President Ryan!

    August 17, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  16. Jon

    Romney just does not get it...as an independent this avoidance has become as much as an issue as, what I believe most Americans think, would show just how imbalanced our tax system is. The idea that our middle class and small businesses should float the balance for a proven failure of an economic system that allows the wealthy tax advantages in the name of trickling down wealth in the form of investments, is just absurd...i vote for a progressive comsumption tax that is more reflective of our consumer driven economy...

    August 17, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  17. betterdays

    What does Romney’s tax rate have to do with his suitability for the presidency? He paid all of the tax he owed, which is more than several recent members of Congress can claim. I don't see the IRS pounding on the large, imposing, palatial door that he earned and has every right to be proud of. And @ American People, you're not the American People; you are one person, and an envious one at that. You don't speak for me. You espouse the simplistic political views of the typical fourteen-year-old.

    This is getting absurd. Obama is pathetic.

    August 17, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  18. Barry Hays

    Obama's broken promises:
    -Cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term (3/24/2009)
    -Close Guantanamo within 1 year (1/22/2009)
    -Post final draft of bills on White House website before signing them into law (6/22/2007)
    -Televise Health Care Reform hearings on CSPAN (multiple times in 2007 and 08)
    -$825 billion stimulus will keep unemployment below 8% (1/10/2009)
    After these broken promises, and many others, why should Romney or anyone else believe this one?

    August 17, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  19. JLS

    Curt
    Anybody wonder why a man who is insisting he is such a good businessman and how he is so organized needs an extension to file his income tax ? Its not like he didn't know when taxes were due. If he can't even file his taxes on time how does he expect he can run a country ?
    _________________________________________________________________________

    Filing an extension doesnt mean you dont pay your estimated taxes, it just means the final paperwork is delayed a few months, and in business there are times you do need that...Guess Curt doesnt know that.

    August 17, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  20. Monarc333

    Who cares about tax returns! Obama should be talking about real issues. Debt, economy, foreign policy, these things matter. Not whether Romney paid this tax rate or that tax rate. This getting to be childish and I expected more from Obama. Why are they afraid to speak of the issues?

    August 17, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  21. Should we call him Spiro Romney?

    u laby

    Wow. Seems no one on the left is cares about how the economy is doing any more. Thanks CNN.

    Not true, we are just able to multi-task.

    August 17, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  22. Tao

    13% is still well below my 27%

    August 17, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  23. Philosopher Jay

    Romney wants to cut taxes for the rich, but won't show his tax returns. He knows that the American people are demanding that the rich pay more and will be outraged by how little he actually pays in taxes.

    Romney making 20 million a year pays apparently pays 13%. That is what a single person making under $40,000 a year pays. That is ridiculous and an insult to all hard working Americans who actually do work, unlike Romney.

    August 17, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  24. K DOG

    Im no obama fan, but mittens has made his fortune off taking from workers, now hes going to give back, but he needs a tax break first, give e a break. this guy knows nothing of need, has zero compassion, and is hiding something, just because the irs hasent charged him doesnt mean hes a good guy. 14%, his rate should be higher than that, mine is!

    August 17, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  25. tee27

    If they are only asking for 5 years then then must have the goods on him.

    August 17, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
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