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. Sam

    Obama released 7 years, George W Bush released 9 years, Clinton released 12 years and George HW Bush released 14 years of tax returns.
    George Romney, father of Mitt Romney, set the standard by releasing 12 years of tax returns. George Romney said, "One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show, and what mattered in personal finance was how a man conducted himself over the long haul."

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

    Penobscot said: "Release a birth certificate and Romney will cough up the tax return."
    wow...the level of ignorance is so incredibly high amongst conservatives today that I'm somehow always surprised by it. Kudos to you, sir!

    August 17, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. eric

    Obama "Please, please, pretty please give us your tax returns!? we have nothing else to campian on, please just throw us a bone here!"
    Mitt "...nah, maybe later."

    August 17, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. iluvstorms

    Sigh. Everyone always believes they can do it better....thank you, President Obama for walking in some tough shoes.

    August 17, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. Independent

    sniffit...ummm I think they were referring to Obama but you obviously lack the critical thinking skills to determine that, or even the common sense to determine that!!! LOL

    August 17, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. n222s

    I want the college transcripts to ensure this US born citizen (I believe he was born in the US) didn't lie and say he was foreign born to ease admission and receive Kenyann and Indonesian scholarships. Why did his publicist believe he was born in Kenya? She got the idea somewhere and he had not written his book yet. So how did she pick Kenya out of all the African countries? -- And we should encourage a higher tax rate on capital gains. Perhaps they'll wise up and invest less so that our economy will sink even more than it has already.

    August 17, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  7. cathstar

    If Romney won't release even five years' worth of tax returns, the presumption will be that he didn't file any. The only way he can shut the Democrats up is by releasing his returns and proving them wrong. Of course, if he didn't file any ....

    August 17, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  8. Hi808

    I can't believe there are people questioning the President's birth certificate still yet. We who live in Hawaii cannot stop laughing at all of the fools who keep questioning his birth. Questioning his birth is like questioning the State's honesty. Its a fantasy created by desperate people. You do not realize how stupid you people appear to be.

    August 17, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  9. Michelle

    This is absurd, how is this any different than Obama not releasing his birth certificate during the 2008 campaign when he was pressed to by the other side? It's simply a distraction and I'm sick of hearing about it instead of how the heck i'm going to afford gas to get to work next week and buy groceries with the rising grocery costs. When someone actually starts talking about something that impacts me and everyone else in America maybe I'll start listening. Until then i'd just assume vote for Roseanne Barr at least she can make you laugh in these tough times we're all going through. Politicians need to get over themselves I don't care how much tax Romney has paid on his millions or if Obama was born in Hawaii I care about not having to struggle every day to make ends meet.

    August 17, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. Jackson


    Obama "Please, please, pretty please give us your tax returns!? we have nothing else to campian on, please just throw us a bone here!"
    Mitt "...nah, maybe later."


    It only hurts Mitt in the long run. When he ran for Senate in 1994, he demanded that his opponent release his tax returns. Mitt said "the public had a right to know".

    So now, by failing to live up to his own beliefs, he calls his own taxes into question, especially since the key years in question come AFTER the statement he made. Why did his beliefs on the public right to know suddenly change? What is hiding in those intervening years that were enough of an issue to make McCain pass on him? Remember, McCain saw those returns, and isn't saying anything.

    This bold refusal to live up to his own "the public has a right to know" speech will hound him until he releases them.

    August 17, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  11. Independent

    @Pixelpusher6... that is the sadest thing I have read, if he releases his tax return blah blah....learn to think for yourself!!!! You must be one gulible person to buy into this tax return crap!!! Why not vote for someone based on their plan or PROVEN business success or lack of success in Obama's case!!

    August 17, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  12. n222s

    And everyone, when asking for his college transcripts, always make sure you say he was born in the US. He WAS born in the US. The issue is not about where he was born or his grades (who cares, he graduated) but whether he lied on admission forms. How did this pot smoking kid who paid tribute to his supplier in Hawaii get into these schools anyway? Don't get me wrong, he is very, very, very intelligent. But few who do as much pot as he did are capable of pulling off the grades necessary to get into the colleges to which he was admitted. Did he lie and say he was foreign born? Why is Romney's supposed ill treatment of a kid in high school important but Obama's possible lies at the same age not?

    August 17, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. Pixelpusher6

    The Real Tom Paine

    Completely agree with you. Judging from most of the comments here it seems like people just degrade to the equivalent of 8 year olds calling each other names on both sides. What happened to all the intelligent, free-thinking, independents? It seems like people are only capable of parroting this crap they hear from their party of choice. Really this is just a reflection of the state of our government. Reminds me of Germany after WWI where you have one side calling people Communists and the other side calling people Fascists. Everyone likes to say our government is the best in the world but sometimes I highly doubt it when politicians can sway most of these ignorant people with 30 sec. attack ads, it makes my well thought out vote seem almost meaningless.

    August 17, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. jose

    first if there was something illegal with his taxes the IRS would have known about it .
    secound Mitt can release his taxe returns if Obama releases his collage records

    August 17, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  15. n222s

    STOP with the birther stuff. HE WAS BORN HERE!!! Did Obama lie on his transcripts? That is what I wanto know. Why did his publicist happen to mention being born in Kenya? He didn't write the book yet. Where did she possibly get the idea that he was born outside the US and in Kenya, the birthplace of his father? From his college records?

    August 17, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  16. thethunderlols

    Can we drop this and get back to the real issues? I'm tired of being told why I shouldn't vote for Romney. Obama – Tell me why I should vote for you! (Take your pick – economy, gas prices, employment, foreign affairs...give me something to make a decision on!)

    August 17, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  17. steve jones

    Mitt is a rich man who has never had to answer to anyone. His days are numbered and he will never get to the white house.

    August 17, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. Moiraesfate

    Omg, you five year olds. Obama already showed us his north certificate. Grow up already. If you hate him, at least do it for a real reason instead of one you invented.

    August 17, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "sniffit...ummm I think they were referring to Obama but you obviously lack the critical thinking skills to determine that, or even the common sense to determine that!!! LOL"

    What the hell post are you responding to? The one about the birth certificate? If you think Obama hasn't released his birth certificate, please go stand in the corner with the rest of the tinfoil hatted fools. If you're responding to my post before that, then yuo need to learn to recognize when someone is making a tongue-in-cheek post.

    August 17, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  20. Joe public1

    Oh for the love of God Mitt, just release the tax returns already! Mitt isn't actually stiffing team Obama, he is stiffing the American public! If he wants US to trust him with our vote, I for one expect a higher level of transparency. If he can't meet the standard he need not apply!

    August 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  21. Pixelpusher6

    jose –
    Completely false. He could have not paid taxes for a number of years and then under the federal tax amnesty act of 2009 volunteered to repay all back taxes plus interest and penalties to avoid criminal prosecution. Go to wikipedia look up tax amnesty and scroll down to the United States. Oh yea that year was 2009 and Romney released his tax returns up to that year. Boy I wonder why. While it won't be illegal because he was given amnesty for paying them back it sure looks morally bankrupt.

    August 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "secound Mitt can release his taxe returns if Obama releases his collage records"

    What is so hard for you people to understasnd about this: Mittens is NEVER releasing his tax returns because they are horribly horribly damaging to him due to the amount of tax avoidance contained therein. Obama would probably take that deal, shove his college records down Mittens throat and Mittens would find himself stuck welching on the deal.

    August 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. barbarianofgor

    It's entirely possible Romney paid no taxes.
    Legally, I might add.

    Years back they had an expose on 60 minutes. A country Western singer was offered a thing where he could pay $3 million but pay NO taxes. He'd just gotten $65 million for his latest album and stood to pay $20 mil or so on it...

    Well, he was scared/mad thinking the FBI/IRS was targeting him for a sting, thinking him both criminally stupid and dishonest... He went straight to the IRS and they said "We checked them out, they are legit..."

    So he got REALLY mad and paid his taxes in FULL...
    Then he went to 60 minutes and they did an expose.

    What they do is the thing that if an individual tries it they get laughed into jail. But spend $3 million on lawyers, accountants, etc. Create 2 virtual corporations, they cancel each other in profit/loss, no taxes...

    It was a sensation, but it was still the "Booming 90s" so it didn't generate the "Hang them!" sentiment it should have.

    IMO, Romney has used this or a similar scheme...

    If he reveals it, that will END it.
    And his "Bretheren" rich elite will be very, very, very mad at him.

    August 17, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  24. Cyg

    I'm so glad Mitt pays the same tax rate I do, but it bums me out I make about 5 million less a year than he does.

    August 17, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  25. DENNA

    How can conservatives be so dumb? The Republicans don't give a darn about you people, they only want to get in. They have zero interest in really helping the country. Don't forget that Republican policies caused this mess in the first place. They just want to finish the job.

    August 17, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
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