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. biologixco

    Romney filed for IRS AMNESTY from prosecution in 2009. THATS why he CANT release those tax returns. He a frickin' TAX CRIMINAL!

    August 17, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  2. howie lee

    Mr. president you can go back to Chicago and take that teleprompter with ya, so you won't get lost. There is only one candidate who is running who has changed medicare and that is Obama. and i know you like to attack president Romney, oops, governor Romney but yes, he was successful as a republican governor in a liberal democratic state, Massachusetts, the unemployment rate went down, not up like with you, and balanced budgets. heck, he vetoed over 600 bills. have you used that veto pen yet? oh yeh, you haven't even passed a budget in 3 years and your last one was voted down by your own democratic senate 99-0. wow! one more thing about the governor. when he presided over the Olympics, right after 9/11, it is the only Olympics in modern history to make money. looks like governor Romney has a mighty fine resume to me! and since you are so hung up about the governor "only" releasing 2 years of tax returns, are you ever gonna release your college records? what are you hiding? Romney has released his and he finished 1st in his Harvard law class and second in his business school class. wow, pretty good, eh. so please, mr. president get ready to head back to chicago where you can work more on your golf game so we can get adults in the white house, Romney-Ryan!

    August 17, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  3. Ex-undecided voter

    I trend towards the GOP, so will vote Romney IF he declares, but I have no issues voting for Obama if Romney shows he has dark financial secrets. For me, non-declaration shows that he has played fast and loose with his obligation to pay taxes to run the nation. If Romney can't show that he has done his bit, I will certainly not trust him to act on my behalf.

    August 17, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. SlowGun


    Barack HUSSEIN Obama, show us your original birth certificate you filthy Mylasian con artist.
    Robert, I'm guessing you're a christain conservative...I can tell by how christain your post is.

    August 17, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  5. cytwo

    ONLY. ONLY. A MORON (not Mormon) will pay the IRS more taxes than what is due.

    IRS collects enough. Trillions and Trillions. Its never ENOUGH. NEVER. GOVERNMENT SPENDING IS LIKE A HEROIN ADDICTION. Never enough. You give it more (STIMULUS) and that only feeds the addiction! FOR MORE.
    AND MORE AND MORE. ALWAYS DEBT !! (especially Europe also) AT SOME POINT YOU HAVE TO GO COLD TURKEY !! (you can call it 'AUSTERITY' for the Europeans if you like)

    And what about that DEBIT CARD FRAUD? Billions of Taxpayer money completely gone to waste. RAISE TAXES FOR MORE OF THAT ??

    August 17, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  6. SeilnoigileR

    First it was birth certificates, now college transcripts (which I'm not aware any POTUS has had to produce) all to try to prove your tinfoil hat worthy conspiracy theories. Then claim that asking about tax returns (which every candidate HAS produced) is somehow unimportant? The rabid right is such a gang of flip floppers – first it's "Liberals are full of hate", then it's "Liberals are too soft-hearted". You change your complaint day to day, sometimes hour to hour. Make up your minds or shut up. Like most bullies, you can dish it out, but can't take it. You also seem to have absolutely no sense of humor at all, which is simply sad.

    August 17, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. oldoc

    Pointless discussion...mittens is uber wealthy and uses all the legal tax loopholes to his advantage. The same loopholes they want to expand so these guys can create more jobs...duh? He can't possibly have any empathy with middle class issues and now with his VP candidate an Ayn Rand devotee, we're sure not going to get any real across the board help with them in charge!

    August 17, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. Dajo

    Blah blah blahaha..... Its funny that a lot of things one does requires them to bring copies of your tax returns..... Maybe this should be a standard thing for anyone running for a political office (Last three years returns).... Also, should require one to provide proof of citizenship ~ ie a birth certificate. Why don't both come clean with your paper work. Worse case senario is we will see where MR used tax laws for tax avoidance and BO lied about being an american citizen... Which is worse????

    August 17, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  9. UVikingsLost

    Greetings everyone!

    The reason why Mitt Romney does not release additional income tax returns is there is more Romney has done to hide and not pay his fair share of federal income taxes over the years. How can you trust Mitt Romney to be President of the United States if he can't be honest to the American people about his personal income taxes?

    Take some time to make sure you're registered to vote and exercise your precious right to vote on November 6.
    You all have a big decision to make come November in electing a President of the United States.

    That choice is up to you.

    Take care.

    August 17, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  10. JohnRJohnson

    While it is difficult to view this situation objectively, it is not impossible. Mitt Romney is running for President of the United States. His campaign has been claiming that his business expertise is what makes him a better choice than President Obama. He also claims that he wants to change the tax code. So Romney himself has made his business practices and tax returns fair game. Even if he hadn't done any of that, it has been the routine practice of previous presidential candidates to provide several tax returns, NOT just the last two - which are the years AFTER Romney decided to run for president.

    Romney is running for a political office that is the most scrutinized, criticized position in the free world, yet he and his wife say that they don't want to release more than two tax returns because they are afraid they'll be attacked. Is this how he will handle his decisions if elected? Will he simply keep his most controversial decisions secret because he doesn't want to be scrutinized and possibly criticized?

    If Barack Obama were to refuse to release less than the last decade of his tax returns he would be pilloried by the GOP and right-wing media. Now, there is a new "conspiracy theory" that Obama falsified his college records. Of course, there's not a shred of evidence that this is remotely true and the fact that his transcripts haven't been released has been the standard practice of all presidents in recent history. There are privacy issues involved which have nothing to do with the President. The people screaming "conspiracy" know this, just as they knew that the state of Hawaii wouldn't release the long-form of Obama's birth certificate.

    August 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  11. maquignon

    Romney should make a counter offer. He will release 5 years tax returns if Obama will release (UNSEAL): his REAL birth records, his parents marriage records, his parents divorce records, his adoption records, his mother's second marriage records, his kindergarten records, his prep school records, his Occidental records, his Columbia records, his Harvard records, his selective service records.

    August 17, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  12. Chris from Chicago

    Why do people care about his tax returns.....he makes a lot of money from capital gains, you better believe the IRS is all over his returns scrutinizing every detail....and you also better believe he pays more in taxes than the vast majority of Americans.

    Obama wants the returns released so he can spread rhetoric. So he acn talk about 99%'ers and 1%'ers....this was never about fairness, it's about Obama avoiding the tough decisions so he can keep hold of the presidency.

    you all think Romney has some horrible secret to hide.....The IRS isn't there just to hand you your refund check worth more money than you paid in taxes, they actually do make sure people pay their lawful share.

    August 17, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  13. sharky

    Bogus promise.

    Hey Obama release your transcripts!!!

    August 17, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  14. Rena

    Mitt Romney is not going to release his tax returns because I strongly believe he has something to hide. The 13% he paid is a joke and yes, a tax loop hole for the rich. It's disgusting to say the least. I know I pay more than 13% and it would be nice if I could get that break. If Mitt Romney is elected there will be more tax breaks for the rich and we will be paying a lot more. The other flip of the coin is doesn't the Mormon Church require at least 10% in Charitable donations? He may not want them to know how much he can give and has not paid his fair share there either. Can't trust him. If you have nothing to hide I wonder what's the problem?

    August 17, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  15. Tripp

    bolopwr: "People, if you want to pay a lower income tax, invest your money!"

    Well, yeah, but first you need the money to invest. Hey, you wanna live like Romney? First get a fortune, then invest it, stop working, live off your investments, get elected, and lower YOUR tax rate to zero.

    Oh, you don't come from wealthy parents? Too bad.

    August 17, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  16. Tom Smith

    Dear Romney,

    Why do you hide your taxes? We Americans would really like to see how much you paid in taxes...Because we pay a lot! Are you hiding something?

    August 17, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  17. The $64,000 question is: WHY is he so scared of releasing?

    Romney spends hours at a rally, talking to a few thousand people. At the same time, he refuses to come clean even though MILLIONS of undecided votes hang in the balance.

    Thnik of that...millions of votes could be gained simply by releasing his tax details, far more than any speech or ad campaign, so why not release? Perhaps many more millions of votes would be lost if they WERE released. You think?

    August 17, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    I have issues with Romney that have nothing to do with tax returns. With that said, If find Obama to be the most arrogant, divisive, president that I can remember. Tell me this, Dems. If your candidate is such an awesome President, such an amazing human being, then why are you even focusing on Romney at all? Why aren't you, and his campaign for that matter, trumpeting his accomplishments instead? Why not prove his claim last time that he wanted to change the tenor in Washington? Instead, he's running one of the dirtiest campaigns in memory. What is the reason that Obama can't talk about what he's done, but instead has to concentrate on what his opponent might do?

    August 17, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  19. Jenelle

    I absolutely think he should release his previous taxes, if he has nothing to hide- then what is the problem? Everyone else does it, what makes him the exception to the rule?

    August 17, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  20. np

    Its funny when they say "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. OBAMA TALKS THE TALK AND WALKS THE WALK. He is more about action and substance than empty rhetoric mr Romney.

    August 17, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  21. Jill

    Of course Mitt won't release any more tax returns, not even 5 years back, because as they say, "you people have seen all you need to know!"

    August 17, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  22. Tree

    You right wing are i don;t know what to call you. He is running for the highest office in the land. Yes show those FED TAXES ROMNEY

    August 17, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  23. mike52

    Willard show us your tax returns. Because America smells a rat.

    August 17, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  24. open400

    Think of all this a different way: If you your local football team ran a particular offense and it ended in disaster(Coach Bush) , then you ran a different offense with a different coach that was better, but not spectacular(Coach Obama), why would want to go back to an offense(Coach Romney and Coach Ryan) running an offense like Coach Bush unsuccessfully ran?

    August 17, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  25. Expat American

    Barack HUSSEIN Obama, show us your original birth certificate you filthy Mylasian con artist
    When you write down the President’s middle name; you and people who think like you get scared of terrorists from ‘Mylasia’, and buy up all the toilet paper and Twinkie Cakes from Walmart.

    August 17, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
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