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. Sniffit

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

    Deal! And since the birth certificate is already released, please hand over the tax returns right this freekin instant!

    August 17, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  2. RepublicanVoter?

    Romney received amnesty from IRS when they offered this to Americans with hidden assets in Switzerland.

    Plain and simple: Mr. Romney's campaign will not release this information, before the convention or likely ever, at any cost.

    Too we have no other Republican choice than this man.

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

    I have to wonder why no one is mentioning Romney's involvement in Marriott International's bogus tax shelter "son of boss" while he was the chairman on their audit committee.

    August 17, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  4. Person of Interest

    I find two things funny:
    1) " The 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." No $#!^ Sherlock. They aren't "allowed" to coordinate with most 3rd party groups...it's called the law.

    2) " 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." Didn't the GOP want Donald Trump to be a speaker at the convention? About all he says is: Show me the birth certificate. When your "advocates" are doing the same thing, you can't really talk that much. I mean you can, you are, but should you?

    August 17, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  5. Penobscot

    Release a birth certificate and Romney will cough up the tax return.

    August 17, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. Len Smith

    On Thursday night, Mrs. Romney said that releasing more tax returns would simpy provide "ammunition" for Democrats.
    So, if that is the case than she is telling us all that there is something to hide and it is not good.

    August 17, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  7. Governor 47th In Job Creation (Excluding Off-shored to China and India)

    Sammyboy

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

    LOL!! I guess this wingnut's tinfoil hat had slipped down over his eyes when Obama released both the long and short forms. Please try to keep up.

    August 17, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  8. Brandon

    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.
    _____________________________________________________________________________________________

    Joyce....

    You don't think Tax avoidance has a direct correlation with the current budget deficit and borrowed money problem that our country currently faces? We are in a debt to the tune of 10 Trillion Dollars. Some tax money won't fix that in a year's time....but it would sure contribute to the fix, wouldn't it? Especially if it was found that multiple people (and large corporations like GE) avoided paying taxes in the same fashion. The only way to fix the system is to draw attention to the broken parts of it. Unfortunately, that's dragging some people through the mud.

    But why in the hell would you want a man in Presidential Office who doesn't see fit to be honest with the people he's representing? Get a Grip! This is one of the REAL issues. A lack of income going into the system.

    August 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. Jerry

    This stupid deal is only intended as a distraction so that Mr. Obamaloney will not have to talk about his failures on the economy, jobs, housing, healthcare, etc., etc., etc.

    I hope the Mr. Romney camp tells Mr. Obamboozzeler and his cohorts to shove it. They are just throwing everything they can think of on the wall and hoping that something "really" sticks. So far, they have had to eat crow. I am guessing they like to eat crow (besides dogs) because they keep going back to the same unfounded and stupid attacks.

    I can only hope that the American people can see through the haze and the distortions. This administration does not know how to distinguish between lies/distortions and more lies/distortions.

    Also, tell me, again, that the present administration "REALLY" cares about the middle class and women. They only care about pandering and buying votes. I really need another good laugh.

    August 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. Todd

    I am a middle class American that works his 40+ hours a week and who still has the American Dream of becoming more. When has it become a crime to be a millionare or in the upper percent of the income bracket. You should never be ashamed of sucess in this country nor be ashamed of paying the required tax percentage. You may not like the percentage Romney paid, but he broke no laws and he more than likely paid more in taxes then most of us will earn in a life time. Does that make him a bad person, no it means he followed the American Dream, worked hard and became extremely wealthy. This is not a crime nor is it something you should be ashamed of. You should be proud you did just as our fore fathers wanted you to do. That is go out work hard and make as much as you can. That is the American Dream. It is not to sit with your hand out collecting Government assistance. I, like many here, was taught at a young age that you can do anything you want if you work hard and follow the laws of this great country. That is what Romney has done and now you want to turn him into a villian because he has paid MILLIONS of dollars in taxes and given MIILIONS to charity. Just listen to all the vile hateful comments from the left about a person who has done nothing more than follow the laws of the land and become a success in life. George, Thomas and Benjiman are turning over in their graves. Stop being so blinded and look at things as they are. Lets be AMERICA again.

    August 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. Bob in Ohio

    How anyone (except those with something to hide on their own tax returns) can vote for Mr. Romney fot POTUS is beyond my understanding.

    August 17, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  12. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    Mitt Romney doesn't need to release anymore tax returns. I don't believe this is the issue for Americans. If this is all Obama has then he is in deep trouble. This is nothing more than a distraction and the American people aren't buying steal from the rich and give to the poor campaign from Obama.

    August 17, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. Brandon

    On top of that.....people are trying to determine if he's a CRIMINAL or not. Sure, the IRS provided Amnesty to the people found to be hiding money ILLEGALLY....and that's all well and good. KEep him out of prison. But if he was part of the few who traded repayment of avoided taxes in exchange for amnesty from prosecution....that is a VERY Important piece of the puzzle. You want a president like that? Republican or Democrat.....NO ONE should want a criminal in office......The leader of the free world should not be a criminal.

    August 17, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  14. RepublicanVoter?

    I wish Mr. Romney and his campaign would recognize that we are talking about the issues, when we ask to see Mr. Romney's tax returns.

    The economy is what we are talking about. The thought that we are looking to direct the economy is of essence in this election. To say different is I believe spitting me in the face.

    We are considering the coming President's stance on social and economic mechanisms, ones belief system and very importantly ones actions on these matters – The candidates political principals, and that is what my vote is directed by. Not the Twitter or any other cycle.

    August 17, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. the real ib

    Romney should have told Obama to release the papers on Fast & Furious. What is Obama hiding? A border patrol agent was murdered with these guns plus others. No one has been murdered due to Romney not releasing his tax returns. Oh and don't forget Obama's college papers; again what is he hiding. Why are these papers sealed?

    August 17, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. Michael in Houston

    Knowing the GOP...if they believed releasing Romney's tax returns over the past 5 years would make the President and his campaign...and Harry Reid look like fools...they would have already done it.

    That they refuse...says it all. Romney is hiding something that if found out now...would kill off any chance at being elected. So.....he is fair game and I hope the dems keep hammering him relentlessly and speculation soars.

    You dont need to worry Mr Romney....we have great imaginations and can pretty much do the math. You havent paid anywheres near the taxes the rest of us pay.

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

    1Joyce said: "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."
    -------------
    Let's face it. Romney wants to get people to vote for him and tax reform is high up on the agenda of "real issues that affect our economy" in this election. I would tell him to either show us his tax returns or never speak to us again about them during his campaign. We don't need someone telling us what deductions/loopholes we should use when it's not clear which ones he's exploited in his past.

    August 17, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  18. Lagos

    I still think Romney is a crook, but what an insulting offer by the Democrats. Oh, release these 5 years and WE won't pressure you for more. But if say, an affiliated organization or one we have no control over bugs you...

    August 17, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  19. james - St. Paul, MN

    Mr. Romney's disdain for the voting public is among the most disrespectful things I have ever seen in American politics.
    If he has nothing to hide, he would do what all previous Presidential candidates have done. The longer this goes on, the more obvious it becomes that Romney truly has something to hide.

    August 17, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  20. Governor 47th In Job Creation (Excluding Off-shored to China and India)

    @ Penobscot
    Please see my repsonse to sammyboy. Ditto for you. Adjust your tinfoil hat – not too tight though, and keep up with not-so-current events. But since you so generously offered, the deal is accepted. Now go get your boy Willard to fetch the returns for the 63% that do want to see the returns. Thanks much, you're a peach.

    August 17, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  21. Dems Need to Grow a Pair

    @ Snake...So ......when has any President of the U.S paid $1,000,000+ to keep his transcripts and college applications under wraps. You don't think there is a chance the applications may show questionable citizenship in order to secure college financing??? I don't know BUT, to pay that kind of money ( and some estimates estimate that number as conservative) I believe for the sake of transparency the American people should know what he's hiding. Don't you agree and if not explain. And yes I am a conservative who believes in full transparency. How about you?

    August 17, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  22. Robert

    Penobscot, the birth certificate has been released, a long time ago...

    August 17, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  23. therealbartonfunk

    So folks, Obama HAS had his birth certificate released about a million times. Obama is a citizen by birth, get over it and move on with your lives.

    Of course, Romney has not even released a complete tax returns for one year. This information is relevant because we need to know if he has bet against the US by stashing more money overseas, broken tax laws, actually made money from Bain or not, what other Corporate interest might Romney have? How much did he pay? The tax returns are related to his policies and what he might do as President. Romney himself has said that his return will be ammunition for the Dems. He is admitting that his returns are messed up in some way, but just that to him it's not a big deal. And he has lied before about his returns when he ran for Gov. Can he be trusted now? Doubt it.

    August 17, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  24. bolopwr

    People, if you want to pay a lower income tax, invest your money! Its called a Capital Gains Tax. It is a much lower percentage rate than regular income tax. Try taking a personal finance class or two and you will be able to figure it out. You don't have to be rich like Obama (yes, he's rich too!) and Romney to invest your money and get the same benefits. As for Romney releasing his Tax Returns, i could care less. Obama just wants them so he can sling more mud and hope something sticks. Why don't you focus on American issues, not Romney issues? Well, Obama hasn't done anything with his first time, so he has nothing to talk about. I think its time to "change" again – this time for the better -Romney/Ryan

    August 17, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  25. Robert

    Barack HUSSEIN Obama, show us your original birth certificate you filthy Mylasian con artist.

    August 17, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
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