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. ElhannonVA

    If the IRS fined Mitt or made him pay back taxes for cheating, we would never know. Unless we got to see his tax returns. Is that what Mitt is hiding? We have the right to know before he steps into the White House.

    August 17, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  2. Ivan

    Why is noone looking at Obama Tax Returns,

    He is claming Foregin Tax Credit for various countries.

    Before and while in the White House.???
    Something wrong with that picture..

    August 17, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. Lenny Pincus

    It doesn't seem like Mitt wants to talk about anything. At least he has his white board to appeal to the really stupid.

    August 17, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. judith

    Poor, poor Mitt. This issue isn't going away any time soon. Especially since Queen Ann goes on television and says it would give the Democrats "ammunition." Talk about a disastrous interview; anyone could seem the contempt this woman has for the American people.

    August 17, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  5. anoel2005

    Republican mantra = we can fix the economy !

    Democrat mantra = we want to see Romney's tax returns ! (LOL)

    August 17, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Term Limits 42

    Perfect! Now each side has their distinct version of fringe lunatics. The far right has Birthers and the far left has Taxtards. Justice is done.

    August 17, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Somebody out there in cyber-land should hack into Romney’s tax records and release them to the world.

    Any takers? Come on cyber hackers, we know you’ve got the brains, but do you have what it takes to earn the glory?

    August 17, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  8. SOLESUVIVOR

    5 years?He won't go back 5 years?How about 4 years?3 years?How about all of 2010 and 2011?No he won't do it.Why?If I had Cayman island accounts,Swiss bank accounts and who knows what else I don't think I'd be too comfortable making my tax returns public.

    August 17, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  9. DannyCali

    Game's over if Mr. Romney not release his tax return. Mr. Romney, don't worry about Americans have no work to do man, we already have some body take care of it.......not you.....!

    August 17, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. jww

    So what has the Obama team seen in the last few years of Romney's tax returns that they are so anxious to have made public? They need Mitt to release so they can have it made public.

    August 17, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  11. garypsmith321

    Let's start with what happened to the $200 billion in UN-ACCOUNTED for stimulus money, then we'll be concerned about Mitts' tax returns, eh?

    August 17, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  12. jim

    It is amazing how the left likes to play with a different set of rules based on if they are behind. Disclosure is great for the other side but never for them. (White Water, Chicago "land" deals, solar energy support for "supporters")

    However, it is also amazing how no one seems want to address the "real" issue with Romney's tax returns. The fact that they followed the law that the government created that allows wealthy people on both sides to pay taxes at a lower rate by "defining" income as long term capital gains and then reducing the capital gains rate in the name of fairness. (and how much money is raised from Mr. Buffet and many others who "benefit" from this definition.

    Both sides of the aisle are to blame here and not Mitt Romney who has never written or proposed a single line of IRS tax code definition.

    August 17, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  13. JDinHouston

    Latest Rasmussen poll shows no Ryan bounce, Obama ahead. Romney, you can change this trend by releasing your taxes. What you and your wife have said and done only proves you are hiding something you don't want anyone to know – that alone makes you unfit for the presidency.

    August 17, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  14. Jim

    s secretive as Cheney. Hopefully he'll drop out and give another candidate like Santorum or Gingrich a chance. Romney is a person who has and can buy anything for sale. He has nothing to offer except making himself richer at the expense of the rest of us. Look at his record of job production, worker make less and management makes more. That is fair to him. PLEASE WAKE UP AND SAY NOT TOUS!

    August 17, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  15. mike

    Romney should make Obama a deal: He should release his tax returns in the same time frame Obama released his birth certificate.

    August 17, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  16. Expat American

    Republican mantra = we can fix the economy !
    ---
    Republicans do not want to fix the economy.
    They really could care less about the economy.
    Republicans want to regain power.

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

    I think Romney is a liar. There is obviously something there he doesn't want us to see, otherwise, why disrespect his father so much? He's an empty shell of his father.

    August 17, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  18. mommytwice

    For me, I don't care how much Romney earns. I think it's great that he's rich and I don't begrudge him one cent he has. I DO, however, have a problem with his refusal to show the American people how/when/where he got that money. Whta is he hiding, and why is he hiding it? His own father started this practice, and I agree. We should not be voting for anyone who isn't willing to show the public they also follow the rules we have to abide by. He demanded his VP candidates provide their tax returns, so obviously he sees value in the practice. The man is hiding something, and unitil he comes clea, he will never have my vote.

    August 17, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  19. Al

    Until Romney shows his tax returns, he's a liar.

    August 17, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  20. NoLongerRepublican

    "After repeated denials, Paul Ryan has admitted he requested stimulus cash even after sharply criticizing the program."

    Take a page out of your boy's book Romney......come clean!!

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

    anoel2005

    Republican mantra = we can fix the economy !

    Democrat mantra = we want to see Romney's tax returns ! (LOL)
    ---------–

    Perhaps it has escaped your attention that Romney's tax returns might coincide directly with future tax laws enacted should he become President? As well as coincide with past tax havens directly linked to the economic crash of 2007?

    August 17, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  22. Oliver

    If I had to guess, the five year mark is rather telling. I imagine that Mitt probably profited off the recession, possibly by buying or trading treasury bonds with foreign markets like China. Or perhaps he made money of investments in real estate, only to somehow sell at a high before the market collapse (insider info). This is speculation of course, but until Mitt proves otherwise, one has to believe he is hiding something big.

    August 17, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  23. Ken in MO

    I am shocked. The Republicans want to blame Obama for the Stimulus package. The completely ignore the fact that is was George Bush and the Republicans stimulus package....NOT Obamas. They (including Ryan) were against the changes in Medicare when Obama proposed them, then Ryan proposed the exact same things...they loved it. Hipocrytes!! They just say no! Scorched Earth!!

    August 17, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  24. Green Eyeshades

    With the kind of money that Romney makes, it's highly likely that the IRS has audited his returns every year. If he had done anything illegal, he would be serving time in prison instead of running for office. His returns are prepared by Price Waterhouse-Coopers which is one of the largest and most reputable accounting firms in the country. They are not going to knowingly take a tax position that is remotely illegal in reporting his income.

    Has he done everything within the law to reduce his tax liability? Certainly! So would all the rest of you idiots who are clambering to see his returns. Most of you wouldn't even know where to begin to analyze returns of that magnitude if he were to make them available. It would probably be a revelation to most of you to learn that some investment income is taxed at a lower rate than other types of income such as wages and that investment losses can be used to offset future gains, so sure, when the market tanked, he probably took those prior year losses and offset current year income and paid less of a percentage in tax that what, I'm sure, some of you feel he should have, but it that his fault or should he just voluntarily pay more?

    His business is his business and he has nothing to gain by releasing his returns. Those of you having hernias over the fact that he won't release his returns wouldn't vote for him anyway and he knows that. We already have an oversight organization to determine compliance with the tax code and it's not you, it's called the IRS!

    August 17, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. JB

    I wrote a letter to Obama today and offered him a deal. If he admitted to the assassination of two unarmed American citizens via drone missile. I will stop criticizing him for hiding the fact that he is a murderer. He did not take the deal.

    August 17, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
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