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. garypsmith321

    Mr. President, with a failing economy and increasing unemployment, why are you worried about the republican canduidates taxes?

    August 17, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. SlowGun

    "An politician who won't show multiple years of tax returns may be hiding something" – George Romney (Mitt's Daddy)

    Follow your dad's advice Mitt.

    August 17, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. Pixelpusher6

    Romney probably doesn't want to release his tax records because of the 2009 federal tax amnesty program where people can voluntarily choose to pay back taxes with interest and penalties in exchange for avoiding prosecution. I've seen no one mention this yet but it could be a large factor. I don't think it's a coincidence that he released his tax records for two years but stopped at 2009. So yes it is possible he committed a crime and if he received amnesty the IRS has already resolved this. So the whole argument "if he committed a crime the IRS would go after him" is not really valid.

    August 17, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. Keeping It Real

    Obama appears to do anything other than discuss the issues at hand. Can't say I blame him as his record has been terrible. Make no mistake, Obama has made numerous mistakes that will cost him the election.

    August 17, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. garypsmith321

    Mr. President, why does the attorney general Eric Holder seem to be a war with the states instead of organized crime?

    August 17, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. TonyK

    IVAN: More accusations with zero proof. Birthers, now accusations about college records? Romney's taxes are a somewhat different matter, don't you think? we just want to see them so we have an idea how much Romeny "gets" the plight of the middle class, how much he himself has been hurt by the tax code, like middle class voters have.

    August 17, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  7. J

    So what their saying is he is legally using the tax system. So if you want to be mad be mad at the tax code. Everyone keeps saying he's enjoying the tax code or he is using it to his advantage, well duh! That's what all of us do when we file our taxes. We look for whatever legal deductions we can justify. Every person in America that pays taxes uses the tax code to their advantage. Why would you want to give the goverment more? I don't feel more American or more patriotic if I pay the government more that's for sure. Not to mention if they're then change the law that says how many years of taxes candidates must file. But don't make something that's not a requirement an issue. Either change the law or shutup.

    August 17, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. Truth Perhaps

    Bigger issue...a 2010 tax return, as well as the 'yet to be filed' 2011...can still be amended. Anything within those years is still allowed to be changed well after the election. Five years back...no changes allowed and a true picture we have!

    August 17, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. Annie

    Hell yes he said no, just more proof he' s a LIAR! Honest people go out of their way to prove the truth. What does that show you, GOP? You are all a bunch of lying, cheating, greedy egomaniacs. Guess that makes you feel sooo superior, right? Big Love and Cry baby Weinie, the only choice for the 1%!

    August 17, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  10. Lisa P


    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
    True, Mitt Romney did not write the law that he appears to have massively benefited from, and he may have found ways to hoard his wealth - and, coincidentally, to deny funding for federal programs he claims to support and the use of his money to promote the growth of American business and economic activity - that keep to the letter of the law. But elections are not just about the past. Romney has never said anything about closing the loopholes he benefited from - not only are we not clear what they are, he hasn't specified what he would change - but the plan he has released provides additional tax cuts to wealthy people like himself on top of the continuing Bush tax cut windfall. So I think people with average incomes earned in the usual ways have some reason to be skeptical. It's not like Romney has been running a mea culpa campaign of regret for his past greed and a promise to reform the system so no one else can get away with what he did. Why would we expect anything but more of the same?

    August 17, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. Sandy Greene

    Why don't we make a deal with Obama and ask him to show us his certificate of birth!!!

    August 17, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Greater Good

    One word only to describe Mr. Romney: shifty. He shifts positions constantly, and is now trying to shift the narrative away from this pressing issue. What are you hiding, Mitt?

    And as for your campaign's comment about helping the middle class: what's your plan for doing that again?

    August 17, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. Dave

    Almost every major employer in this country performs a credit check before hiring. Consider this your "credit check", Mitt. Release more returns if you want the job.

    August 17, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  14. Ancient Texan

    Billy NYC- Bush's grades @ Harvard were released and they showed better grade point average than John Kerry's. What is Obama hiding?

    August 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  15. Paul from MN

    Who cares! Romney has nothing more to show. Everyone knows he's rich. Obama's almost as rich.

    Maybe Geitner should disclose more tax returns first.

    August 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  16. Pixelpusher6

    Just because the economy is the major issue doesn't mean there aren't other important issues, and him not releasing these records hits on two big ones – tax reform and Romney's character. What the hell does Obama's college transcripts 20+ years ago have to do with anything relevant today? People that still think he's not a U.S. citizen need some serious professional mental help.

    August 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. Pixelpusher6

    And before people start accusing me of being some "liberal", I actually don't like Obama because of his Keynesian approach to the economy which is not sustainable. I was supporting Mitt Romney before two things happened: him not releasing his tax returns and the Paul Ryan VP pick.

    August 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    It's amazing to see a sitting President stoop so low to blackmail and extortion to score points
    Obama tries to blackmail Romney into extorting his tax returns
    "If you give us 5 years of tax returns we will stop the attacks"

    Blackmail may also be considered a form of extortion. Although the two are generally synonymous, extortion is the taking of personal property by threat of future harm. It is the use of threats to prevent another from engaging in a lawful occupation and writing libelous letters or letters that tend to provoke a breach of the peace, as well as use of intimidation

    Attorney General Eric Holden has been notified of Obama's tactics

    August 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  19. terri

    I'm so sick of hearing about Romney taxes, I do no care about his taxes!!!! I want to hear from both Romney and Obama their plans for the next four years, The only one talking about that is Romney! And I like what I hear!!! We need Change and we needed it fast!!! Obama stop blaming everyone else, and making excuses for all the failure of the last four years, stop playing these games and start showing us how you want to turn things around or call a moving van you will need it.

    August 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  20. cali girl

    TXJAck, we had a very smart business man, that was elected President and served for 8 years, who RUINED this country.
    Robmey had one mission at BAIN, that was to make money.To dismantle a company and sell it off to the highest bidder.
    Are you ready for that to come to you as an American?
    And as a Governor, he says he was successful, but he won't talk about it. There are no reports to back up Robmey, but we do know that his state ranked 47th in job creation. That means 3 states were worse in numbers, but 46 were better.

    August 17, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  21. me

    Hey garypsmith321, its called vetting! If he can't even talk about that, what else WON'T we know about him? Romney is so stupid, he's going to lose the election all by himself.

    August 17, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. Pixelpusher6

    Mitt Romney has said he wants to implement the Bowles-Simpson plan of which Paul Ryan was a member of the bi-partisan committee. This plan favored republicans much more than it did democrats but there were democrats that supported it. The bill did not pass. Committee member and co-sponsor of the bill Paul Ryan voted against the same bill he helped create.

    August 17, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  23. Pixelpusher6

    Afterwards republican Alan Simpson criticized the 6 republicans including Ryan who supported the bill but at the last second voted against it saying their purpose "was to stick it to the president." Here is a bill that would have reduced the deficit significantly, had bi-partisan support and favored the republicans much more than the democrats but Ryan voted against it. Someone like Paul Ryan that doesn't understand government is about compromise doesn't belong in it.

    August 17, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  24. khaleeshi

    So Willard thinks the American people should just take the word of a known liar? Release your tax returns so the American people can make an educated decision in November.

    August 17, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  25. Pixelpusher6

    This is an election that should have easily favored the republicans given Obama's poor handling of the economy and the continuation of these Keynesian policies which have little effect on growth yet create more debt. Initially I supported Romney because I think his experience will let him adopt a business type approach to the economy.

    August 17, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
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