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. Northernstar

    This is the most ridiculous issue to be talking about. Romney's money is held in a "blind trust" and managed by someone else. Who cares how much he paid in taxes ?! The less the better so long as he filed the tax returns correctly. The "loop holes" are there to be used; and if his Trust managers used them correctly – good for them. What is the issue ? Would it be better if he OVER PAID his taxes (how stupid would that be to the average american to hear). Obama can't defend his performance over the past 3 years so he is keeping the "slow thinkers" on Romney's old tax returns. American voters get dumber every year.

    August 17, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. 351969

    Sly MittWit knows he's doomed when the Mormon Church finds out they have also been getting stiffed. This thief and Boy Wonder are going to get creamed but good.

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

    How sad. Let's make a deal!!
    If this is all they got to go on, they better pack it in. As an independent voter, if all you can focus on is this dudes tax returns, you lost me. He has fulfilled what he's required to release. Anything more is up to them but I don't need to know any more. If you can't focus your campaign on the real issues, you need to go.

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

    I for one am not agreeing to the deal. I want twelve years going back to his last year at Bain. I think every person who truly wants to know what Mitt is so desperate to hide, should call for the same. Love my President, but really... He has to stop being such a wuss! Demand at least 12 years and if Mitt REALLY doesn't have anything to hide then he should be glad to clear this all up. If there is nothing of note then we will have egg on our face and at least some of us may even vote for him...

    August 17, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  5. mikle

    Who build my business ? Obama? Yeee. I run 2 store for 4 years and it was 2 best day during this time. First and last. The rest it6 was night mare. After all pay , i took what left. Very little. No vacation, no day off...and golf game;. Obama you don't know nothing about business and it show.

    August 17, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  6. serdich

    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.
    Does not work that way and you know it..why should Obama release everything and Romney nothing...Obama disclosed his tax returns now its Romney's turn. The fact that he said 13% means that he is lying right know..he paid no taxes and he knows that releasing the returns will hurt the campaign. If he does show the returns under pressure know it will come out that he lied for the 13%...here is the fact..Romney has more than $300 mln in offshore accounts from work which is outsourced..thus this the very same guy OWS is against the top 1% who gives a rats ass about us, they made million out of the financial crisis.
    Should Obama release his kindergarten transcripts ?

    August 17, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. EffortPA

    Romney's main claim to fame is his business experience. However, if I look at his tax situation from a business point of view, he is being extremely unwise not to disclose his tax returns. There is no doubt that his refusal to show the tax returns is going to cost him a lot of "customers" (i.e. voters), but he doesn't seem to care. That is certainly no way to run a business. The only conclusion I can draw is that whatever he is hiding is definitely a show stopper.

    August 17, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. marinedad05

    Romney should release his tax returns. His own GOP colleagues have repeatedly demanded that he do so. Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Palin, Perry, and even some talk show hosts have asked him.

    This has been a tradition for all Presidential candidates to do so. His own father did too. Romney refusing to so makes him look like he is hiding something.

    Some here are asking Obama to release his school transcripts. Not sure why, no other presidential candidate has even been asked to do so. So, why is Obama being singled out here?

    I think Romney should release his returns. That will be good for his campaign, and for his credibility.
    In fact, he should go beyond what the Obama campaign is asking, and release them for 10 years.

    August 17, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  9. Age of Fools...

    Pres Obama repeats on the camaign-trail how well he did in his first term...yet he wants to win a second-term on Ronney tax-retuns...Pres Obama if you did so well than run on your record.....

    August 17, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. bananaspy

    @Ivan Obama's tax returns are posted online for everyone to see. If there was something fishy in them, you better believe the Republicans would have unveiled it by now.

    August 17, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. Shardik

    "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."

    Smart move by Obama. He probably knows the most damming information are in five years.

    August 17, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. aaron

    Romney was offered a better deal than Obama got with the birth certificate. They've went on ad nauseum about Obama not being American, even after the release of his long form birth certificate. Turnabouts far play in Dems going on about Romney's tax returns, especially since there's obviously a reason he won't releae them. And, what's on those returns is something Romney did himself, not an uncontrollable matter of birth that they've tried to put on Obama since he enraged them by getting elected.

    August 17, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. scottsdale independent

    wow – a whole 13%?! The argument for investment income to be taxed at a lower rate than earned income seems silly. Yes there is greater risk in investments but with greater risk comes the opportunity for greater return on investment. It seems very classist that people with a greater amount of money to invest should pay less taxes on the money they make on their investments. Why is the tax code so complicated? Because it is cobbled together with pieces of legislation upon legislation, continuously built to benefit those who can fork over the money to support the legislators in power. Special interests, whether they be groups or wealthy individual, pay little to nothing while the working guy foots the bill.

    August 17, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  14. Moiraesfate

    Romney not showing his taxes shoes that he is hiding something bad. He is being an Id iot. Anyone that actually believes this ok must have their brains shut off. Between this bit of stupidity (if he's done nothing wrong, he wouldn't hide this) and his insane choice of an extreme radical rethug running mate just proves he won't be elected.

    August 17, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "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."

    Honestly, his tax returns are probably clean as a whistle in terms of legality. What they likely show, and the reason he's not wililng to and will never release them, is that he's part fothe very small group of people in society that GOP economic and tax policies have provided giant advantages and privileges in terms of loopholes, deductions, etc., that can only be taken advantage of with wealth like his....that he's part fo the uber-wealthy segment of society afforded the opoprtunity to use said loopholes, deductions, etc., to reduce tax liability to extremely low levels and leave the middle-class shouldering the burden for paying for the country to run itself. His returns will be a shining example of such behavior and become a clarion call for tax reform that stops the rich from being able to do that to the rest of us. It will also show just how much he cares about the middle-class's burdens and struggles when it comes to choosing between the health of the country, gov't and economy versus nickle-and-diming the gov't and the rest of us for his own personal benefit.

    August 17, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. garypsmith321

    Well Mr. President, what is this secret deal with the Russians that can't be made public until AFTER the election?

    August 17, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. cali girl

    no taxes no Presidency, capice?

    August 17, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. serdich

    Republican mantra = we can fix the economy !
    GOP cares less about economy..just look at the bills they pass and the bills they block..its all about abortions and jesus..and no equal rights for women..

    August 17, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  19. Destry

    He just called us all small minded...
    Way to win over the populace!

    August 17, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. podunda

    If only Julian Assange weren't so busy, he could WikiLeaks these tax returns.

    August 17, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  21. SeeThruIt2

    Who are they kidding?

    The IRS works for the Treasury, and Treasury works for the President. The President's people already know what's in Romney's tax records. And they probably already have the attack ads ready. They want to criticize Romney for being rich and paying a low percentage in taxes. They just can't run the ads because it's illegal for the President to use his position to obtain the info for his campaign.

    Until Romney volunteers to release the returns, it's just rumors and mud-slinging.

    The longer Romney waits, the better the chance of catching Obama's team using illegally obtained personal info.

    August 17, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  22. LiberaLIowan


    Where were you educated? Mississippi?

    August 17, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  23. MediaSELLS

    For anyone who thinks these tax returns AREN'T a big deal – congratulations. You're an idiot. The reason it's important is because we need ALL of our presidential candidates to be as transparent as possible before forking over the keys to the white house. Mitt clearly has done some shady things otherwise, he could simply release even just 5 years' worth. Sorry but 'vetting' IS an issue that faces voters. The economy is in far better shape than it was 4 years ago and if you're too stupid to understand that then do us all a favor and just don't vote. Don't even leave your house ever again. Just stay home and watch Fox News and eat your processed food on your made-in-China flat screen TV and leave the difficult tasks like voting, to the smart and informed voters.

    August 17, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  24. Brian

    For anyone who thinks this is all they are focused on: come out of your cave. Romney paints himself to be like "one of us", yet has millions tied up in oversea's accounts. He wants to run on his success at Bain Capital, yet he doesn't want the Obama campaign to comment on anything negative. He wants to run on his "success" as Mass Governor, yet won't run on his record...and he doesn't want you to comment on anything negative. Romney is as ambiguous as they come. No details, won't take a stand on any issue unless he's told to by his campaign staffers. It's pathetic. He can't run a Presidential campaign...AGAIN, but he's qualified to run this country? I don't think so...

    August 17, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. KP3205

    This is hysterical. Let me help you out since no one wants to research it. I thank the New York Times for the info.

    Romney is paying $3.2 million in taxes for 2011, for an effective tax rate of 15.4 percent. That is a slightly higher effective rate than he paid the year before, when he paid about $3 million. He has made $45 million over the last 2 years. His tax return shows that over two years he and his wife, Ann, gave $7 million in charitable contributions, including $4.1 million to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Nearly all of his income is taxed as capital gains at a 15 percent rate, rather than as earned income at rates of up to 35 percent.

    So there you go. Nothing to discuss. He's rich and you're not. Get over it. All of the rich do it but unfortunately the promised one has no record to stand on so they have to go after his tax returns. And the minions chirp in unison the talking points.

    August 17, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
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