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. Nobama 2.0

    It's almost funny to see Obama so desperately wants an IRS auditor's job. No wonder our country is in such a terrible shape under him. Coming Nov.7th, you can apply one at IRS.

    Or even better, if you resign as POTUS now, I am sure IRS can arrange an opening now for you ..

    August 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  2. CNN Loud Mouth

    We need to see Mitt's taxes, before, during, and after his service in the Office of the President to ensure that he's not making decisions to enrich himself. We trust you Mitt. But in the words of Ronald Reagan, "Trust but verify'.

    August 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  3. John

    To me it's clear that Romney want to discus ANYTHING BUT his tax returns. He's a crook and a liar and should never even get the nomination let alone be president.

    August 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    When preparing to apply for a mortgage, most americans take a year or two to make their credit history sparkle. 2 years is NOT enough information for a potential leader of the free world to disclose, especially when the pre-two year history may contain explosive information that will change many voters' opinions and votes. I myself leaned briefly toward Romney due to his choice of running mate, but cannot in good faith do so now. Mr Romney – it ALL comes out – the good the bad the ugly – because of the nature of the job. Stand up for what you say you believe in and make it transparent.

    August 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  5. Independent

    Rudy NYC
    If Obama and his mother renounced their US citizenship, he had to first get a green card and apply for citizenship. Is there any record of that? NO. Then, if he applied as a foreign student how did he become a US citizen again after giving it up because it violates #3 you listed.

    August 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "The allure of having a token visible minority leader has worn off...."

    Woaaah. Almost missed that line. Calm down, Cletus, you're getting your sheets in a bunch.

    August 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  7. Facts R Facts

    Spiro Agnew tried to hide his tax returns and he went to jail. Prove Mitt shouldn't be in jail.

    August 17, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  8. John

    Why Is It that Mitt Romney won't show at Lease ten years In Tax Return , And we don't what he word on It we want to see them. He won't show them because he Is Hiding something that he doesn't want the American People to Know. Mitt Romney has Lies so much ,this Is a Man that can't be Trusted.

    August 17, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. Brent

    Romney paid no less than 13% on "reported" income. Did he report all of his income? Presidential candidates should voluntarialy submit to an IRS audit of at least 5 years. Felons can't hold office!

    August 17, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. Charlotte

    @VoiceofReason is obviously a moron and has no idea what it takes to get admitted to graduate school (poor grades? Please. Only if you're stinking rich and your daddy – Bushiestink, for instance – can buy your way in). Obama does not come from money. He got in on merit. Your speculation about foreign students is the biggest blob of brainless buffoonery that I've seen (well no, but it's among the top) among you bigotards.

    August 17, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. Cedar Rapids

    "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? "

    actually it was romney's dad that started the whole 12 years tradition, he said it was to show people you were a long term success, not a flash in the pan.

    August 17, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. Fair is Fair

    "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."
    First of all, I'm not sure I buy your "dual citizen" arguement whatsoever... I'm not well versed enough in the technicalities of whether that would disqualify him or not.

    But what if the records show that he was a foreign exchange student who was given preferential entrance to Occidental? What if the records show that he was given grant money as a result of his foreign citizenship?

    I'm not saying any of this is what the record would show... I am saying that you're REALLY going out on a limb with your statements, Rudy....

    August 17, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  13. gadem

    Voice of no reason how or why is he spending $4 million to protect records that are already protected under FERPA? Stop repeating stuff you read in emails....

    August 17, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  14. Rosslaw

    Obviously the Obama camp does not realize that one moves their money offshore to the Caymans, Switzerland and the Bahamas for the purpose of hiding it. Those noveau riche can be so obtuse.

    August 17, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. Steven T.

    Next up – Paul Ryan will you release your tax info. Paul Ryan I'm sure has nothing to hide but how can he release if Romney won't.

    August 17, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  16. OnceGreatNation

    OK, to summarize...Harry Reid makes an unfounded, malicious, politcally motivated accusation and then suddenly...we (the liberal) people demand to know about Romneys taxes!!! Talk about the blind leading the blind.

    August 17, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  17. TheGoogler

    How many years of tax returns did Obama release in 2007/2008? Romney should equal that and be done with it or Romney should also say 'Well Obama if you release your college transcripts, I'll release 10 years of my tax returns'. They are both hiding things, let's see which one is worse. Why the Romney campaign doesn't fight fire with fire is beyond me.

    August 17, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. realist

    it is true that much of Obamas academic record is under lock and key. The liberal media gives him a pass and anyone else that looks into it will be deamed a racist. Clearly he keeps his records sealed because he applied as a foreign student to up his chances of entrance.

    August 17, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. Jon D. Brooks

    I would like to broker this deal: Romney discloses more tax returns in exchange for Obama disclosing his college transcripts from Harvard and Columbia, respectively. Deal? Not likely. Obama will not release this information, no matter what . . . . What does Obama have to hide?

    August 17, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    Billy, NYC

    Since when did presidential candidates have to release school records?

    Since Mr. Obama proved he was born in the United States.

    August 17, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. Ron

    Romney should agree to release his tax returns if in turn Obama would agree to release all of his college records. (which remain sealed to this day, for some unexplainable reason)

    August 17, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. Term Limits 42

    Perfect! Each side now has their distinct version of lunatics: The far right has the "Birthers" and the far left now proudly recognizes the comparably ignorant "Taxtards". Evolution is mean, there is no dumb_ss vaccine and most of this thread proves it.

    August 17, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  23. Lisa M

    I can't wait for the HBO movie on the Romney "campaign"

    August 17, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  24. papabush88

    This is so pathetic of Obama. Will do anything to take attention off of his Columbia records/trascripts. All around, Romney is not my all time favorite candidate. However what he lacks in many places, he makes up for in his economic/fiscal savviness. Economically, he's better than Reagan.

    August 17, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  25. escher7

    Congratulations. You are not letting the VP pick distract from the Tax Cover-up. Here's a thought – Romney was caught hiding money in Switzerland (or thought he would be) so he took the amnesty deal. Hence he paid the taxes, but only to save his butt. And of course after that he had to pay because he was on the radar.

    He is afraid of something, so if he paid the taxes he must be hiding something else,like amnesty.Otherwise why not just show the five years and get it over with. I think the Obama campaign knows this as they have resources that would reveal the truth – otherwise they would not be forcing the issue.

    August 17, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
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