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. Chuck

    Voice of Reason. There is something seriously wrong with you. How does a an exchange student go to Punahou High School which is in Hawaii? How does an exchange student go to Junior College by the name of Occidental College which is in LA? The information is vastly available for the public dude. You need a brain. If Romney was retarded as you, he would be asking for these things, but he knows they can be disputed. There is something called Google. Use it. All you have to do is search for secondary Obama went to. You can also search for baby pictures of Obama in where he is clearly on US soil. Trust me, If Romney, who by the way has been lying this whole campaign, could prove the idiot stuff you are saying, he would use it. But there is nothing available sir.

    August 17, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. JohnW

    A couple things. One, "issues that matter to voters"? Those tax returns DO matter to voters. Otherwise we wouldn't be asking to see them. Two, Mitt says he finds it to be "very small-minded" to be interested in those taxes. In other words, Mitt thinks he's above 2/3 of the people in the country (I'm rounding). What a jackhole.

    August 17, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  3. Independent

    Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi all use the same tax loopholes some are complaining here.

    August 17, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "First it was, he never paid taxes – he might be a FELON....."

    That's not what was stated. What was said was that, because he listed himself as President, CEO, Director and sole owner of Bain on his tax returns in 1999 and 2000, he was either lying (1) when he claimed that he had retired and relinquished all control of Bain those years, so couldn't be blamed for what Bain was doing OR (2) he lied on his tax returns. IF...IF IF IF...it was the second, then it would be a felony...which in turn suggests, and this was really the whole opint, that the first option is more likely, meaning he really did have control over Bain those years. Stop with the intentional misinterpretations and mischaracterizations of what's been said and argued.

    August 17, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  5. JonM

    I don't see why everyone thinks tax returns should be made public at all? Why should anyone ever have to release such personal information? Why don't all the Democrats and left wing commies post all your tax returns going back 20 years? Why can't all your neighbours see exactly how much you made and how much you paid in taxes? Why would you expect something of one man that is not required of the entire population? Also, offering a deal to stop asking for tax returns so long as he releases a bunch of tax returns is not a deal at all, it is saying you'll stop asking for something after you've already gotten what you want. How much romney paid in taxes has nothing to do with how poorly Obama is doing, internally and internationally. The allure of having a token visible minority leader has worn off, now it is time to have the right man for the job take over.

    August 17, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  6. Katie

    I have to question the need for anyone 'needing' to see Obama's school records and it makes me laugh every time I see someone suggesting he's spent millions of dollars 'hiding' them. Conspiracy anyone??? A pity some people are so willing to believe this sort of crap – are you really that desperate to cling to your hatred? Really? As for Romney releasing his tax returns, it's totally up to him how much he chooses to divulge about his personal finances. He's very rich. He doesn't need to really prove that, does he? This is not unlike Sarah Palin refusing to let her full medical records be a matter of public knowledge. Unless it's absolutely pertinent to the issues at hand – which none of these things are – let it go already. Obama's smart, Romney's rich, and Palin was physically healthy. Those things are obvious to anyone paying attention, why spend so much time and angst on something so irrelevant? And why cook up ridiculous reasons about why they are "hiding" (or even more ludicrous – paying someone to hide) something?

    August 17, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. Billy, NYC

    Since when did presidential candidates have to release school records? Did GW Bush release his failing grades?
    Not releasing tax returns like many DEM and GOP candidates is a ligitimate conern that link to Romney's character and honesty. Asking his wife to lie for him on TV is pathetic. Leave that poor woman alone. Deal with it like a man, Romney.

    August 17, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. reality

    Heres the thing, since he is very wealthy, do YOU people really think the IRS is going to let him slide on paying taxes. He paid 3 million dolars last year alone. It only takes common sense people. PLUS, if you dont pay taxes, you can not just jump right back in and pay without REDFLAGS. He released the last rwo years of taxes. As the amount he pays. 14% of 21 million is not the same amount as someone making fifty thousand a year. How about this, try working and actually making more then earned income (which pay littte to no taxes) and have to pay more taxes and see how willing you are going to be with more taxes. its easy to sit back and say the wealthy needs to pay more taxes when you get $7000 or $8000. tax refund each year. where do you people think it comes from, the llittle refund fairy that shows up each year. SERIOUSLY.

    August 17, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. This Guy

    @Voice of Reason :by Jeff Simon

    You have obviously never attended a private university. Grades are not waived for foreign exchange students. You sir are lacking in education.

    Your comments speak of the uncultured, biased and remotely special ed nature of your beliefs.

    August 17, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. bigbendjc

    Tax returns were important to McCain and Mittens didn't get the VP job after the McCain camp got those returns. Smoking gun here? Just asking.

    August 17, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. Sniffit

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

    That myth has been debunked 9 ways to Sunday. Grow up.

    August 17, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. TJeff1776

    According to Romney's father one tax return could be interpreted as a "fluke". I wouldn't think two would be a lot better. BUT
    Mitt seems to think releasing more would invite criticism from Democrats. NOT a very valid excuse. Of course, IF there
    IS anything therein for them to find fault with.....they will do it. BUT watching Romney's TV comments, he certainly doesn't miss a trick when it come to criticizing Obama...........LOL.....like every other sentence.

    August 17, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. Leslie Williams

    If you have nothing to hide, then why hide it? Romney's wife said when being interviewed on NBC, that it would just give the Democrats and the news media more to pick on. What? Grow up. You're in the big leagues now. You are suppose to be able to take it.
    How can we trsut a man with our country, to be open and honest with us if he won't even fully disclose during the campaign? We need to make a fully informed decision. We don't want any surprises after the fact.

    August 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. nchunter

    Chuck – Everyone know where he was raised, where he was born is what some are questioning? why he seal his college records, he hiding something. Do I care, No. Do I care about Mitt Taxes NO. I do care about what happening in this country and Obama is not the solution to the problems we face, look at his record for his first term we are worst off now.

    August 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. susansbaker

    Think logically, if anyone lies about one's academical backgrounds in a Ivy League school like Harvard,who'll speak out first? Definitely not you! I just can imagine how your brian can function with so many hates inside of it.

    August 17, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. roguehog

    Maybe if obama release his college transcripts, then romney releases some tax returns.

    August 17, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. Crimson Red

    He is providing what is legally required. If you libs don't like it then get the law changed.

    August 17, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. Charlotte

    Governor Romney: I am an American citizen, voter and taxpayer. You are applying for a job, for which I, as a voter, have a small ability to influence the choice of applicants. Now, every other applicant for the position (POTUS) for several decades, has provided many, many years of his tax records to me (us) as part of the transparency and forthrightness that allows us to judge your qualifications from an ethical and philosophical perspective, as regards where your money comes from, goes to, is stored and reported. This is part of the process of our ability to fully evaluate a candidate. So you, alone among any candidate in the last several decades, refuse to allow me this information. I have to ask why. You say it's essentially none of my business. Maybe so, but your refusal to come forward makes me think you are hiding something that would be important to my decision. Oh, you're not hiding anything? I'm supposed to take your word for the "haven't paid less than 13%" claim? Show me. I want to see. Prove it. Why not? Oh, because you're YOU and you're so much more special than anyone else who has aspired to the position. Sorry, but you aren't. You are obstructionist, secretive, and evidenly HIDING SOMETHING. You will therefore not get my vote. Oh, and while you're at it, let's see a birth certificate.

    August 17, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  19. FedUpInSeattle

    If billionaire George Soros was eligible to run for President, wealth would not be the Liberal focus. The fact is Romney's campaign is correct; Obama's re-election strategy is based on class warfare and faux racism. If voters are not smart enough to see that Obama’s economic strategy has failed then I guess you will never convince some people. I only hope enough people see that throwing money at jobs that don’t create long term growth is killing out economy. Obama has spent 4 years giving money to politically correct industries that are so expensive to run, that they would not be able to survive if not propped up by tax money given to them. The other spending is to throw money at jobs that don’t sustain themselves through selling goods and service. They are the INFRUSTRUTURE jobs liberal always talk about. That is code word for jobs that don’t make their own money and are paid solely with tax money. Yes they are jobs but usually short term and not self sustaining.

    August 17, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. anagram_kid

    Darla (Edmonton, Canada) queried – Good Lord ... what is the obsession with Obama's university records?
    It is the latest ‘grasping-at-straws’ attempt of those on the right to somehow prove that a black liberal could not possibly be smart and more importantly, smarter than them. If they saw his records their collective childish and resentful response would either be that grades don’t prove anything or that the grades are faked. Then they would move on to the next ‘fact’ that they are sure will prove that President Obama is not superior to them, and once again they will come across as hateful and ignorant.

    August 17, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "Why don't all the Democrats and left wing commies post all your tax returns going back 20 years?"

    Because we're not running for POTUS. Besides, comrade Putin told us not to.

    Next. Yawn.

    August 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. Logic N LA

    SHOW THE RETURNS! It is not a issue of if he paid his legally owed tax, but what the source of income is- and that must be what he's hiding.

    August 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. cali girl

    No deal? Than no Presidency and your fat cat friends, capice?

    August 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. Debits-n-Credits

    Jesus of Nazareth taught his followers to give to Caesar the thiings (taxes) that are Caesar's, and give to God the things that are God's.

    August 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. Gary Swanson

    I'm not a huge fan of either candidate but I will say this, which is a piece of advice my dad gave me many moons ago. If you have nothing to hide don't act like your hiding something. If you do choose to act as if you're hiding something then what are people naturally going to conclude?

    August 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
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