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. DR

    It's not the amount he paid that he's hiding, it's the amount he made shipping jobs overseas! It's a bunch more than he cares to admit right now, and it's how he made it at the expense of American manufacturing.

    August 17, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  2. jesse

    The media keeps reporting the Romney lie that he's released 2 years of returns. "Romney has released his return from 2010 and an estimate from 2011." That is ONE YEAR. Not TWO. WHILE HE ALREADY KNEW HE WAS RUNNING. The second year of returns won't even be released until a week before the election, IF THEN. How the heck can such a candidate with such secretive finances be considered for the highest office in the land? Why is an "estimate" being counted as a second year of tax return records? It's ONE YEAR he's made available. ONE. Repubs are out of their minds, the lack of logic/reasoning is bewildering

    August 17, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  3. Steve- Illinois

    If you libs think this election will be won over tax returns, you need to put down the pipe! It's the economy stupid!!!

    August 17, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  4. ShawnDH

    Brian wrote: "I hope Romney waits for the first debate and turns to Obama and says: "Mr. Obama I've decided to bring 5 years of tax returns to our next debate if you agree to show up with 5 years of college transcripts"
    __________________

    Why are you guys pretending like Obama's scary scary sinister college transcripts (???) are somehow the equivalence of tax returns? It's really dumb. Nobody cares about Obama's college transcripts outside of wacky Teabagistan, yet 63% of Americans want Romney to release his tax returns, as every candidate has done for 30 years. Nobody released their college transcripts because they are totally irrelevant and nobody cares. Nice try, though. Obama would laugh in Romney's face if he said that.

    August 17, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  5. Rob

    Romney's tax returns are front and center in this election. His tax returns are directly tied to the never ending debate on whether the working stiffs or wealthiest should pay more while the country is in turmoil.

    Workers are taxed more because they have to work to put food on the table. An investor can opt to keep money in no risk accounts, so the government incentivizes the investor with lower tax rates on returns. It isn't fair, but it has to be. Otherwise investors would be paying 35% on tiny profits and the gov't revenue would suffer.

    If Mitt truly paid 13% well that is fine. He's contributed a ton in tax revenue over the years if he truly paid federal taxes at 13%. The devil, though, is in the particulars. Are Mitt's accountants finding loopholes? Offshore tax shelters? Financial Troubles? What is the big deal, Mitt? Is it a big deal, Mitt? Just show us.

    I'm an undecided voter, and this kind of "trust me" stuff isn't blowing my skirt up. We need to see what the problem in his past is, and then decide if it is important for ourselves.

    August 17, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  6. ShawnDH

    Expat American whined: "Barack HUSSEIN Obama, show us your original birth certificate you filthy Mylasian con artist"
    _____________________

    Are you dummies still on that? Sad.

    August 17, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  7. ShawnDH

    Where is ROMNEY'S BIRTH CERTIFICATE????

    August 17, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. Michigan patriot

    Let's see if Obama shows his "real birth certificate," and his transcripts from college. Who they think they are to try to make a deal? Oh!!! I forgot, its "Chicago style." That's how they work.

    August 17, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. anagram_kid

    Brian wrote –
    I hope Romney waits for the first debate and turns to Obama and says: "Mr. Obama I've decided to bring 5 years of tax returns to our next debate if you agree to show up with 5 years of college transcripts"
    Obama will SH** his pants on live television because there's a reason he's been working so hard to hide those records for 6 years.
    ---------------–
    And then they can debate the role of POTUS in determining how grades in college are calculated.
    In case you are too dim to figure out the satire in the remark above, allow me to educate you and point out that the POTUS DOES have a role in determining tax policy.

    August 17, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. Governor 47th In Job Creation (Excluding Off-shored to China and India)

    "It is not about what Mitt has done with his money." is a common refrain from the low order thinker crowd.

    It is. If he has not been patriotic by hiding his money when we as a nation face a deficit due in large to two previously unfunded wars and tax cuts that were heavily skewed in favor of a segment of our population that does not need them and certainly have not created any jobs as a result of them. So yes it is about what he has done with his money, and more importantly it reveals the character of the man who would like to be President.
    Not about to vote for a tax cheater. Show us your papers and inform us all how to skirt the rules around growing an IRA.

    August 17, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  11. Najie

    You GOpers are all jealous of the black man who became PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! Especially Willard Romney. He's been campaigning for over 5 years now and is still Citizen Romney. That's what's eating him up... Thinks that with all the money he has, he should have made it to the White House BEFORE the BLACK MAN. Look for Willard to self-destruct before V-Day comes.

    August 17, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  12. FallORome

    Romney should accept Obama's challenge... only if Obama releases his college transcripts!!!!

    August 17, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  13. ShawnDH

    It's pretty obvious to everybody with a brain that Romney is HIDING something very, very shady and I bet felonious.

    August 17, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    I love how Obama supporters always throw out "How can we trust Mittens if he won't offer up his taxes". Here's food for thought:

    1) He's only required to provide two years, which he did, when did Obama ever offer up more information than required? Anytime he's asked, he just gives an excutive order saying he doesn't need to like Fast and Furious.

    2) How is it you are more concerned about someone who may be potentially lying, as opposed to someone who has a proven track record of telling nothing but fallacies:
    a) I'll close Guantanamo – LIE
    b) Post new legislation so all americans have a chance to read it before it is voted on – LIE
    c) no lobbyists as part of my administration – LIE
    d) Healtchcare – It's a mandate, no it's a tax, no it's a mandate again
    and on and on and on

    August 17, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  15. Jackie Swainson

    As a Canadian observing the Presidential election circus, it seems to me that if the Obama team is still focusing on Romney's personal taxes, they must be desperate. Personal wealth is unimportant when you are looking for a leader for your country. I would hope that the leader of my country is able to find personal success to transfer that to success as a leader of the largest economy in the free world! It is not a disadvantage to be successful, but a distinct advantage. Look instead at his leadership skills, charitable donations and community and family strength. Treat the electorate as the intelligent people that they are and focus on your own solutions to the economy, jobs and America's small businesses.

    August 17, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  16. Hogshead Williams

    I could never vote for Romney/Ryan due to their millions of money! Whatever happened to a well versed politican who would work for his people and do what a public servant is required to do? I guess that all went away along with I Like Ike! Rich begets rich, middle class pays the price and lower classes depend on welfare! PACs fund who they want and the little man loses one more time!

    August 17, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  17. Freedom Lover

    I will care about Romney's tax returns when Obama releases his college transcripts.

    If people are so simple minded to care about this irrelevant stuff they probably should not vote anyway. How about we focus on the issues. Like Obama has added more to the national deficit than any president in history and unemployment continues to rise by the second. How is Obama going to defend that?

    August 17, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  18. Shastafarian

    I don't care about Mitt's tax returns, I care about MY OWN.... and the last 3 years they haven't looked very good.

    I think it's time we give someone else a chance to help us.

    August 17, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  19. Governor 47th In Job Creation (Excluding Off-shored to China and India)

    Brian

    I hope Romney waits for the first debate and turns to Obama and says: "Mr. Obama I've decided to bring 5 years of tax returns to our next debate if you agree to show up with 5 years of college transcripts"
    Obama will SH** his pants on live television because there's a reason he's been working so hard to hide those records for 6 years.

    Keep hoping. Well reality is if Willard did not have a thing to hide he would have released the taxes. He's been given a sweet deal to change the tenor of the campaign after he whined about getting treated so harshly by our POTUS. He refused. POTUS Obama has got Willard right where he wants him, he's toying with him. While I'm sure it causes you great angst, it's hillarious to me. Toying with Robmey...and it's only August. Shoulda gone w/Huntsman but your party had to pick the worst possible candidate to go up against a skilled politician. Deal with it.

    August 17, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  20. Mittens Rmoney

    Sorry folks, I have too much to hide like my taxes, my 100 million IRA, my record as governor, what really happened with the SLC Olympics. Too bad you people will never know what really happened when I was at Bane. Oh well, as my wife Marie Anntoinette Rmoney would say, you can all eat cake.

    August 17, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  21. ShawnDH

    Michigan patriot: "Let's see if Obama shows his "real birth certificate," and his transcripts from college. Who they think they are to try to make a deal? Oh!!! I forgot, its "Chicago style." That's how they work."
    ___________________

    Good God, what are you babbling about? Real birth certificate (???). College transcripts (???). You people are embarrassing yourselves. All you have are goofy & desperate conspiracy theories...oh, and a terrible candidate who will lose.

    August 17, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  22. Bob

    This tax thing is getting really old! Next!

    August 17, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  23. lostisland

    Of course he refused, it's better to be a suspected cheater than a confirmed cheater. He knows if those records are released his bid for the president is over.

    August 17, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  24. bill.x

    Mr. Romney – come out of that Tax closet.

    August 17, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  25. ShawnDH

    Steve- Illinois whined: "If you libs think this election will be won over tax returns, you need to put down the pipe! It's the economy stupid!!!"
    _________________

    The economy has improved by every standard since Obama took office, and too bad for you that this election is ALSO about the GOP candidate who sucks and is not electable. Awwwww.

    August 17, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
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