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. skinsfan66

    Romney should agree but only if Obama releases his college transcripts

    August 17, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. Thinker67

    Dear Gov. Romney,

    Please give us 5 years of your tax returns so that we can misrepresent your success. You see, we really have nothing to run on. The economy is in shambles, our budget proposals have been unanimously voted down in both the house and senate 3 times, Joe Biden acts like he's on your side and the unemployment is unspeakably high for minorities. We can't talk about any of those things in a meaningful debate. Please give us something, anything that we can use as a class warfare banner to rally our troops to the polls. Give us 5 years of your financial information and we promise not to ask about it any more or use any of it against you unless we find something to misconstrue that might actually stick. No really, it has to be something like capital gains in excess of $400. Surely you can't begrudge us a little literary license.


    Your opponents.

    Honestly, everyone. If you would not give your financial information to a complete stranger, why the heck would you want to give it to your enemies?

    August 17, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. anagram_kid

    Lisa P wrote – True, Mitt Romney did not write the law that he appears to have massively benefited from…
    Actually he was among a group that funded the lobbying for those same laws. He even gave an interview regarding it several years ago. He may not have written the laws, but he helped pay for them.

    August 17, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. gerg999

    Gee, when am I going to get a tax break? If we all got more of a tax break, we could all spend more money which in turn would stimulate the economy. But since the bar for the middle class keeps getting bumped up, I pay more and more taxes. I am not quire sure that many upper class Americans are stumlating the economy all that much and should tehrefore pay a faur share of taxes into the economy as well. At some point, whether you pay $1500 in taxes or $150,000 in taxes, it no longer affects you the way tax increases affect lower and middle income wage earners. ROMNEY, get a grip, the Rpeublican Party acts so high and mighty they have forgotten their roots.

    August 17, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  5. Jill

    It is scary to me to see so many comments buying into Obama's attempts on class warfare. If most of you did any research, had any propensity for critical thought, and were able to think for yourselves, you would see that this election is between 2 ideals: big government, massive govt spending vs smaller government, free enterprise. I'm not "rich" in Obama's eyes so I couldn't give a damn about increased taxes at face value. But history shows higher taxes = lower revenues and vice versa and we have a president who chooses to ignore that fact in the name of "spreading the wealth" and "fair share". If that mantra isn't enough to scare the living daylights out of informed Americans who would opt NOT to live in a socialist society, then you all deserve the next four years + of a sluggish economy, crony capitalism (aka Solyndra), massive debt, increased welfare recipients, high unemployment, etc. And one last word of advice, turn off Jersey Shore or whatever reality show of the day, and do some actual research (sans the mainstream media). You may even want to pick up a copy of Atlas Shrugged – although I'm not a big proponent of Objectivism, the similarities between the book's path towards socialism and what's currently happening in this country are frightening.

    August 17, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    I for one am not agreeing to this deal. We should see no less than twelve years of his returns going back to at least the last year he was head of Bain. So President Obama can agree to let it go if Ritt Pomney produces five years but the rest of us ordinary citizens don't have to agree to it. Doesnt Pitt Realize that the more he screams no, the more we want to see just what in the world is in those doggone returns?

    August 17, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  7. john

    Obama's excuse for his lackluster, even poor, performance is that the economy was a mess when he took office. I get that. That is why he was elected, to fix what was messed up. The economy is still a mess. He has proven that he can't fix it. I, for one, don't want to watch our economy stay in the toilet for another four years while Obama whines about all the reasons he can't do anything about it. We need somebody who can fix problems, not somebody who has proven that he can't.

    And why would anybody believe any promises Obama makes? He promised he would not run for office if he did not get unemployment lower within 36 months of taking office. It's still higher. He is a liar. Everyone knows he is a liar. He's not fit to be in that elected position.

    August 17, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  8. Lisa P

    @ jim

    I should add: President Obama has done his darnedest to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, *as* *they* *were* *originally* *written* *to* *do*. The Republicans in Congress have refused to let it happen, and have even threatened fiscal disaster to prevent it from happening. Obviously a President is not a dictator and can't just get whatever he wants just by saying so. A campaign promise is more an intention than a guarantee, and sometimes a plan to give people a sense of how it can be done, and whether or not it can be done. Romney's plans are hazy and I don't trust his intentions. Obama's plans are clear (though I expect him to continue to run into difficulties carrying them out unless something changes drastically in November) but I trust his intentions. Despite the opposition he has managed to pull off some amazing things in the last four years, all of them heading in the right direction.

    August 17, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. Pixelpusher6

    terri –> Typical response. "I do no care about his taxes!!!! I want to hear from both Romney and Obama their plans for the next four years,"

    Basically says
    "I'm too stupid or ADHD to focus on more than one thing so the only thing the candidates should be talking about is the economy"

    Romney's tax returns could show that he illegally didn't pay taxes, specifically the returns for 2009. Look up tax amnesty on wikipedia and scroll to the United States. Is it a coincidence that Romney didn't show any tax returns past 2010? Who knows. I was supporting Romney until this but now I'm undecided.

    August 17, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  10. columbus

    You could accuse the democrats for dirty politics, but ALL of politics is dirty. It's a distraction, we and the media are led to be focused on something that takes up a lot of time and that means the candidates have less time to talk about their lack of leadership to address the crisis this country is in. I'm absolutely certain Romney is hiding what he really paid in taxes, but if Obama had succeeded in real accomplishments, he wouldn't need to resort to subterfuge.

    August 17, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  11. Brandon

    I love how he addresses the 23 million out of work Americans, numerous times, as a much more pressing issue that the Obama administration has neglected during the past 4 years......yet his time at Bain Capitol was spent eliminating jobs on US soil, sending them overseas, and hiding his earnings from taxation in overseas accounts. This guy is a prime example of the "job creators" doing nothing of the sort. Rather than reinvesting some of his earnings into the "failing" businesses he "righted" via job creation (which is the IDEA of providing Tax Deductions and programs for the wealthy 1%), he took the money outside of the US Economy, and eliminated more jobs to make the businesses more profitable.

    This isn't rocket science to me. Either you are doing your part to better the American Way of life.....or you're not. And someone who's hiding earnings from taxation, and unwilling to be up front with the very people he's allegedly attempting to win office to represent....is certainly NOT someone who's openly willing to do their part. If he's not willing to to do everything in his own personal power prior to the presidency....why would he be willing after winning?

    I vote "No Confidence" this year. The days of choosing between the lesser of 2 evils needs to come to an end!

    August 17, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  12. Tammy lambert chandler az

    Obvious ! ! Holding Romney to the fire is the correct thing to do and it will send a message to all the other wealthy tax dodgers that they better stop contributing less then their maids and pay their fair share. Romneys to stupid to understand the fact that he and others like him not paying taxes, tax loop holes and secrets are part of what has America facing financial troubles.

    August 17, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  13. nolimits3333

    Romney won't release his tax returns because he cheated on his taxes.

    August 17, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. The Real Tom Paine


    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.
    Its also worth noting that Simpson was renowned as a partisan Republican during his time in the Senate, but he also made a point of separating his work in the Senate from his personal relationships with people. That is something that has been lost over the last 20 years. The level of personal animosity displayed in the government and everywhere else does not fill me with much hope that any meaningful changes can be brought about through thoughtful discussion: a quick glance at these pages makes that sad fact abundantly clear. Changes can happen, but only on a strictly party-line vote that serves to further fracture the country. Its sad that no one can have a discussion about an issue without it degenerating into an exercise in name-calling. This is the least edifying election in my lifetime.

    August 17, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  15. Not1ToWorry

    Willard, most Americans don't trust you. release the tax returns or go back home. Put up or shut up.

    August 17, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  16. Sammyboy

    How about this Mr President, you release your birth certificate and Mitt will release his tax returns.,

    August 17, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  17. 1Joyce

    Lets face it – most of you demanding Romney release his tax returns aren't going to vote for him anyway. You just want to try to find something you can twist and keep this nonsense going. Lets hear about the real issues that affect our economy.

    August 17, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. judeman

    Its just a shame that one of these two jamokes will end up being our commander in chief for the next 4 years. No wonder our country is in its current shape. Tell you one thing though, neighter of these "leaders" will fix our country. And for all you politicians out there, if you want my vote, why dont you start with telling the world about all of your negative details, let us see you for the person you really are. Then you can tell us how and what you plan to do.

    And another question, why is politics even a career path? it should be a priveledge and never a career. cough*cough* congress!

    August 17, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  19. Exec

    I guess they made him an offer than he felt he could refuse. Wow, it must be worst than we think then.

    August 17, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  20. Freedom Storm

    Joke of the day:

    "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America 's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America 's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."
    ~ Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006

    August 17, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  21. Knight341

    This has nothing to do with Romney's Tax filing and everything to do with his integrity.

    August 17, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  22. joe

    Oh, so now Mitt should also disclose his school records as well as those mysterious tax returns! I don't understand how a "man" of his "caliber" and position can act like such a cry baby when he has started all of the hate and seperation of this country along with the reubes.

    August 17, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Honestly, everyone. If you would not give your financial information to a complete stranger, why the heck would you want to give it to your enemies?"

    Pro tip: referring to the entire population of the US as Mittens "enemies" is not helping him. Stick with "you people"...it's far less damaging.

    August 17, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  24. V

    @sailorgirl = it matters because of the financial crisis we are in. Are we going to have a President who is investing in the United States or one who hides his money and assets in another country, thereby investing in a foreign country.

    Mitt Romney doesn't stand much of a chance to win in November anyhow (especially now that he's picked Ryan), but his chances will be completely eliminated if he continues to stonewall the American People on the tax return issue. We need to see the returns!!

    August 17, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  25. rep

    Romney says, "Just, trust me". And conservatives eat it up. lol Imagine if Obama ever said that to you....about anything!
    Wow....you guys are desperate.

    August 17, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
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