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. Ivan

    @bananaspy

    So are all other candidates including Romney's

    So I ask you bananaspy how America is it to as a President to get foregin tax credit. and a refuind as well???

    August 17, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. He sank your battleship...

    Whenever we complain about intrusive surveillance and security measures the GOP says that only criminals have something to hide. If there is actually nothing shameful, then Obama's offer and Romney's refusal clearly demonstrates the reason there has been no compromise on the Hill.

    August 17, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. Sniffit

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

    Actually, it's even simpler: they knew Mittens would say no. Dude is NEVER releasing those tax returns. If he did, you might as well pin them to a flag and fly them at nationwide rallies demanding tax reform that stops people like him from forcing the rest of us to pay for providing him with the functioning gov't and infrastructure that allowed him to get rich in the first place, while he goes off and avoids paying for any of it.

    August 17, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Many low income Americans are audited on their tax returns like myself who have never cheated on our tax returns but the least little error IRS makes you pay. We don't take too kindly to a millionaire who refuses to antiup his tax returns but wants to be President, that's just wrong and unethical.

    August 17, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. CitizenAJ

    If the Obama campaign is boldly asking for this release, they must have some inside scoop that there is damaging information on those returns, basically painting Romney the way they have been during this campaign. It is comical to me.

    August 17, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. Ncc1701

    Evidently, I should be more concerned about how Romney spends HIS money, than how Obama spends MINE.

    August 17, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. WN

    Mitt is the most opaque candidate on the planet. We know so liitle about him, other than the fact that he made millions. But, then again so did Al Capone.

    August 17, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  8. Nico

    Why offer a deal ? Quit talking and start doing.Pres Obama & Joe Biden should release 10 years of their tax returns and challenge Romney And Ryan to do the same.

    August 17, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  9. bigdoglv

    How about this deal. Mitt shows his tax returns if the Dems will not use his income in their war on the succesful hard working people.

    August 17, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  10. Tim

    How many times do we have to see people say "American voters are getting dumber every year", when someone doesn't agree with them? Yet, they go off to Fox News and believe everything they hear. That's what's dumb.

    August 17, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    i believe that romney should release more tax returns, i he di not anything wrong why he is afraid of?

    August 17, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  12. garypsmith321

    Mr. President, would you care to comment on the fact that NOT ONE of the green energy companies your administration suported for a bail out, is in business today?

    August 17, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  13. IF YOU SIGNED GROVER'S PLEDGE, YOU ARE A TRAITOR TO THE U.S.

    This story obviously isn't going anywhere Willard. The Ticker is up to almost 900 comments about your tax returns. It will probably hit 1,000. People want to know that the republican candidate for President is not a tax cheat.

    August 17, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  14. Txjack

    I ask you who do you want running the USA

    a Jr. senator that was educated in Indonesia and only made money from his book sales

    A Govern who is experienced and knows how to run successful bunnies sand make money.

    We need someone that will that this country out of the bankruptcy we are heading for.

    August 17, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    "This is the most ridiculous issue to be talking about. Romney's money is held in a "blind trust" and managed by someone else."

    Already been debunked by Mitt Romney himself when he ran for Senate against Ted Kennedy. Google it. It's a great video.

    August 17, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Lisa

    First of all, college transcripts on Obama mean zip. Transcripts vs Taxes is a huge difference. Half of the US presidents didn't even have a higher form of education. Lincoln didn't even go to high school. However, not releasing taxes, causes the issues of what is he hiding? Why won't he release? I don't care about Obama's grades, I do care if Romney wants to change my taxes, change my medicare but yet he is using loop holes to only pay 13% which is much less than the average middle class pays. He is a tax expert, he not releasing because of the 13%, it is because we will see how he legally cheated the IRS out of money by off shore accounts, loop holes etc. His own father released 12 years, Obama release 8 I believe. So NO, Romney is hiding something and that says everything about his character. He is dishonest and disconnected. He would get us back into a Bush mess, I would rathe take my chances on Obama who at least cares about us and has been trying to get us out of this mess, it is has been the GOP that has blocked him in every way.

    August 17, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. Ron in Texas

    Who pays more than they need to on their taxes. I don't care but his refusal to release the tax returns make him appear that he has something to hide. The problem is will he get rid of all the loopholes for the rich and for businesses so that they pay a lower percentage than middle income Americans. If you make over $100K you pay 18-20% so why does someone that makes $21M only pay 13.9%. The tax code needs to be changed but the rich will not let that happen and Mitt Romney is one of the Rich. Will he have the guts to make those changes. You do need to reduce spending but you need to raise revenues also to reduce the deficit. I have heard both parties claim they would reduce expenses by $4 tillion over the next ten years but since we have a deficit of $1.35 Trillion per year that means we would only add $9 Trillion to the deficit. What is wrong with that picture?

    August 17, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. Age of Fools...

    What Gov Romney ought to do have his Accounants prepare a list from the last ten years of tax-retuns showing amount earned and taxes paid...and have it certified by the IRS...End of tax story...get on with the Issues Obama-campaign..

    August 17, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  19. FedUpInSeattle

    As an example of the shell game the Liberals are playing in this election tell me what the focus of the campaign thus far has been? Romney’s wealth, scaring African American that they will be back in chains if Romney is elected, and that the 49% of non-tax paying citizens should revolt against those who have money to pay more. What you have not heard the Obama campaign tout is that unemployment when he took office was 7.8% and under Obama has been as high as 10.0% and now is 8.3%. Nor do the liberals speak of how Bush raised the National debt $4.899 Trillion in 8 years with two wars and 9/11 yet Obama has raised it $4.94 Trillion from just Jan 2009 to March 2012. If any Republican had Obama’s economic record, the MSM and liberals would be having a heyday but sadly Obama is so likeable as a person that he is allowed to get away with what no other politician could.

    August 17, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  20. Wes

    At some point Americans have to face the fact that we elect crooked businessmen and lawyers to positions of power and influence, either by polling or patronizing. Romney is as crooked as by spine, which is in several pieces. The president is a lawyer, which by pure definition means that 1. He will always desire to win 2. No one can advance their cause without him 3. He will always lie. These are axiomatic systems in American psychology. Just try to live a good life, be kind to your children and others, and hope for a peaceful and pain free end. Smile a lot too.

    August 17, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  21. garypsmith321

    Mr. President, you recently enacted a new program in immagration policy, which by the way can be cancled the same way... A good policy to be sure, why did it take a close election for you to bring it foward?

    August 17, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. Ancient Texan

    Does anyone seriously doubt that if the IRS had any doubts about Romney's tax returns, they would not have already scheduled an audit? I suspect the Obama campaign has already asked the IRS to look into that possibility just as another dirty reelection ploy.

    August 17, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Romney taxes are relevant.. The real issue is did he accept amnesty from the IRS in 2009 for not disclosing his Swiss bank accts. McCain wouldn't have seen this return while vetting him. So while Mitt was running for Prez. in '08 he had undisclosed -untaxed account overseas

    August 17, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  24. confused

    I am extremely confused on here by all of the people saying this is a waste of time.... Weren't you the same people that were demanding to see Obama's birth certificate? I don't see any difference in demanding to verify that a person was born in the country or demanding to see that a person paid their fair share in taxes.

    August 17, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. Lynda/Minnesota

    Mitt Romney's own father released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for President.

    Chalk this up to another wasted moment in TeamRomney "what's sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander" Campaign 2012 flubs.

    August 17, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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