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. Obama - Ending the American Dream as We Know It

    Did anybody git that SQUIRRELL yet??? There is goes!!

    August 17, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  2. "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." --B. Obama

    This would all end if the uhbama would just release his college transcripts! What is the uhbama hiding?

    August 17, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  3. Scott

    Proven success? Massachusetts ranked 47h in job growth while Romney was governor. So succesful...

    August 17, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  4. Tyrone,Schenectady NY

    I laugh at how the repubs ask for college transcripts in return for tax returns. They are not even in the same league, and secondly are we to believe that the government let a fraud get all the way to POTUS???? Do understand how much pull you or intelligance you are granting Obama saying he pulled a will on the whole world???? Are you repubs really serious??? So the man that has money hidden overseas but feels America is EXCEPTIONAL is not to release if he was dodging the proper tax rates and yet and still we want him as President. If that is the case why were we just all in Rangel taxes WHY??????

    August 17, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC


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

    August 17, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm
    That's awfully brief. It's almost as it the person was like a kid throwing a rock and running for it before the rock lands.

    August 17, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. Tammy lambert chandler az

    I don't want to hear " Lets face the real issues about Americas economy" AGAIN! One of the top issues that has brought the US to its knees just happens to related to tax dodging, when people like Romney pay less taxes then their maids that effects the economy and there are a lot of Romneys out there .

    August 17, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  7. Jerry

    Isn't that just like the Gingerbread Man getting a ride across the stream from the wolf?

    August 17, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  8. DAVID

    balancing the dam budget is all the republicans want to talk about. now they are claming up on that because of Ryans budget! you could balance the budget by the end of today and it won't make a difference in unemplyment job creation or the lack of demand in the goods and services problem in this country. do we have to address the budget problem ? YES ! but it dam well is not at the top of the list of important things to do. its just ahead of repealing health care 30 plus times in importance! BY THE WAY MITTENS WERE ARE YOUR TAX RETURNS , STILL WAITING!

    August 17, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. BillZ

    Never mind that you are unemployed. Never mind that you lost or are losing your house. Never mind that the miserable lack of action in the first two years of this administration when they owned congress and could of fixed all this.

    The major topic of this election is Romney's tax returns. LOL

    August 17, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. Sam

    Romney is afraid that the tax returns will expose his tax amnesty for IRS offshore disclosure program or financial dealing with Bain Capital. Ironically, his father George Romney set the precedent of releasing tax return by saying one year could be a fluke or just for the show.

    August 17, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  11. irock110

    Robert...the Earth has been proven round, the tooth fairy doesn't exist, you can walk and chew gum at the same time, AND YOUR PRESIDENT HAS SHOWN EVERYTHING PROVING WITH NO DOUBT THAT HE IS NOW AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN AMERICAN !!! You have not personally seen my BC does not mean I'm not American. No matter how many times you say it, or Beck says it, or Limpbaugh says, it is still a fact corroborated by people in the Republican party. Dude get over it. You would get more respect if you spoke out on his policies that you dont like.

    Get off the PROVEN Birther stuff and get a REAL argument !!!!

    August 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  12. Eric

    If Obama believes that one of the major issues in the campaign is the tax code and the inherent gap in effective tax rate between the top 1% of earners (especially those who make millions off of financial transactions, gutting companies, exporting jobs, and seeking tax shelters for large companies), then Romney's tax records are part of the debate. Romney can not decide what the important issues are, that's for voters....

    August 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  13. anthony76

    Romney is toast. College transcripts have nothing to do with writing legislature that effects tax laws that Obama or Romney can write in favor of himself and detrimental to the middle class. Obama has won this match no matter what Mitt releases or doesn't. Mitt has shown the world that he is not trustworthy. So it doesn't matter how much we argue on these message boards, or the mud slinging (that isn't sticking to Obama), Mitt keeps digging a bigger whole, doing the opposite of what his father and his idol (Reagan) did. Trust but verify, release more then 5 years of tax docs.

    August 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  14. allens

    mittens, show us your returns! we all know it is not principal, you are hiding things and we deserve to see them or you will not have our trust or votes

    August 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. John

    If this is what Obama hangs his hat on, and America falls for it, we are in major trouble as a nation.

    August 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. WillH85

    If he's holding out this much on making his returns public, he's got to be hiding something pretty big.

    August 17, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. LJH2012

    How can we trust Mitt Romney!

    When he ran for Mass. Governor, he and his staff assured everyone that he met all the eligibility requirements...i.e....filed taxes as a Mass resident. But when called before an election committee to prove it...Romney said "OOPS" and had to retroactively filed two years. He lied before and how do we know he isn't lying now.

    Also, Anne Romney said in a recent interview, in her arrogant "I'm richer than you folks" voice, that the voters will only get 2 years of returns...because she was worried that the Democrats will use what they find against them. Thanks, Anne for admitting that you are hiding something. Remember Anne, we are not your servants, but free citizens who need to see what you consider is honest and fair.
    If you don't like it, you and your husband may take your $77,000. Medical Deduction Olympic horse and ride off into the sunset.
    Please keep flooding the Republican National Committee and Romney's Campaign websites with demands for 10 or more years of their tax returns.

    August 17, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  18. glenn friedman

    Mitt won't release his returns. The basic thing he doesn't want common folk to see is the difference and much lower rate of taxing money earned through capital vs. earnings from labor and wages....and then you toss in the tax loopholes, offshore accounts, etc. Most of us don't have those millions in capital nor the loophole and offshore options available to us. And under the Ryan-Romney plan mitt's taxes would go even lower-below 1%.

    August 17, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  19. larry5

    Obama must keep the focus anywhere but the issues. If Obama's campaign falters and people start talking about issues and performance in office then only the blind faithful will vote for him. Well, the blind faithful and the illegals and dead people, too.

    August 17, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  20. Tom Smith

    ROMNEY'S Camp said~~>"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."

    Really? Because the American people have not heard One detal about ROMNEY'S plans

    August 17, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  21. Shmeckell

    Keep hounding him Obama. Just two months of your nothing but negative campaigning has made this a close race.

    August 17, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  22. Rob Jones

    Romney is wealthy and utilizes tax shelters just like anyone else. His opponent is a liar who will seek to make mountains out of molehills and further the class warfare tactics he has employed all along. I'm not interested in Romney's returns other than the 2 years he is providing. Obama has nothing else to talk about with his disastrous record.

    The idea of a guy like Obama who has paid big money to hide records on himself that would be far more interesting than a wealthy candidate's tax returns (prepared by a CPA firm). I would like to see Obama's college records so we can all see what we suspect–he claimed foreign birth. that means he was either lying about it then or lying about it now. Can't wait to vote him out!

    August 17, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Realist

    The road to hell is paved with republicans

    August 17, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  24. SlowGun


    Never mind that you are unemployed. Never mind that you lost or are losing your house. Never mind that the miserable lack of action in the first two years of this administration when they owned congress and could of fixed all this.


    Never mind that Romney wants to return to the same policy that cause all of this...Rush says you should vote for Romney, so of course that's what you'll do.

    August 17, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |

    Wow. This article brought out the worst in some of you. I'm starting to think that President Obama is hated simply because of his hue.

    August 17, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
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