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. andrew

    Want to earn some trust or not, Romney? Show us the returns. We don't trust you yet.

    August 17, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. Rage

    If it is such a distraction to the bigger issues, as Romney says, then why doesn't he just get them out there and get past it? It's probably because he knows his campaign is over if he does.

    August 17, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |

    Spew the hatred amongst yourselves. It doesn't matter. President Obama will be re-elected. You read it here first.

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

    Freedom Lover cried: "I will care about Romney's tax returns when Obama releases his college transcripts."

    63% of Americans want Mittens to release his tax returns and nobody cares about college transcripts (???) because they are irrelevant. Turn off Rush Limbaugh and get a job.

    August 17, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  5. Open & Honest

    There is nothing "small minded" about sunshine falling on the privacy of the least private person in our country (world), especially as this is an expectation of a modern presidential run. Sorry about the inconenience, bro.

    Obama is not even as transparent as I'd wish, but Republiclian administrations are rountinely more cloistered than their Dem counterparts. This smacks of the same info control. Like Axlerod is going to expose that Mitt is ungodly rich- we all know that already!

    His plan to do "the minimum" and coast into office creates an aura of superiority, and frankly distrust, that only he can dispel. There are important policy issues at stake in this election and that is POLITICS; trustworthiness is a CHARACTER issue. If your character appears deceitful, I'm deaf to your politics. It's commonly referred to "voting with one's gut" when your alone in the booth. Ultimately his voice is blunted until he swallows his arrogance.

    It's humorous that he chose Ryan as a mate as he actually has opinions and a sack of onions to match. If Mitt is looking to borrow his pair and cowboy their way into the executive suite he needs to pony up the returns. He serves my vote, not his whim.

    If there is nothing to hide, drop them on the Media at the end of the Republican convention- that would take the Dems sails down a bit. Otherwise you're a pompous fool when both polling and Party have pressed you to come clean. I for one hope this does not go away.

    August 17, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    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!!!

    It will be won over tax returns. Our entire government budget revenue comes from tax returns. Many folks just want to see how well invested Mr. Romney is in America. He does want to become it's future President and showing where his investments are will help the public decide for themselves to trust him. Or not.

    August 17, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. Cindy

    Romney has either screwed the US taxpayer, his church, his employees, or committed a felony. Why wouldn't he screw me. Ronald Reagon said TRUST But VERIFY. It is time to verify.

    August 17, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  8. dd

    why don't the dems ask for everyone in congress on both sides show their taxes for the last 10 years?....hmmmmm.

    August 17, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  9. LMD

    Apparently I am supposed to be more angry about what Mitt Romney paid in income taxes and spent his disposable income on than what Obama wants to do to increase my taxes and lower my dispoable income.

    August 17, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  10. Crazy Joe

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

    I thought it was "filthy Knyan con artist". Can't you yahoos at least get that straight?

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

    ShawnDH wrote:

    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."


    What you don't understand is that only the left most minority gives a crap about Mitt's returns. My hard earned tax dollars pay for an IRS that is supposed to worry about that for me as well as a congress that is supposed to set the codes. If they are not doing their jobs right then screw them, but there is no evidence whatsoever that Romney has done anything wrong. If he has then have the IRS call him out. Otherwise it's none of our gd business.

    August 17, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. alexpdx

    I don't doubt Romney paid taxes, but there remain many questions with regards to his IRAs, his involvement with Bain, under-valued gifts, etc. Here's a decent summary of what he may be hiding. I'm not endorsing the website or the author of the article, mind you... most points in the article link to reputable sources such as the WSJ, etc:

    smirkingchimp (dot) com/thread/joshua-holland/44687/10-theories-about-what-mitt-romneys-really-hiding-in-those-tax-returns

    August 17, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    While the middle class is struggling to make ends meet, Mitt Romney is struggling to lower his own net tax rate to under 1% by eliminating the capital gains tax altogether.

    Why is there so much outcry over Romney's tax returns? One, he promised to release another year, which I doubt he will follow through on. Two, the Romney/Ryan plan would dramatically lower Mitt's tax rate. Three, people are wise to the old rhetoric about job creators need more tax cuts.

    August 17, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. Vence

    Is the tax returns stupid?

    August 17, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  15. Ferret out the B.S.

    "Please release me, let me gooooooooooo"

    August 17, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  16. doug

    Romney IS hiding something – and if he can not come "clean" to the American people regarding his taxes – how can I trust him to do what is right for myself and others as a taxpayer – we already know he has a Swiss bank account – etc....so he definitely is avoiding his full tax responsibility – so I guess that sets the example for all of us – tax avoidance!!!!!! Hearing from my friends in Massachusetts that survived his being governor – if this joker is elected – we WILL regret it more than anyone right now can imagine!!!!!

    August 17, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  17. alexpdx

    Reading through some of the comments here, there are STILL people calling for Obama to release college transcripts. Did Bush release his college records? No. Did Romney? No. Meanwhile, releasing tax returns has long been standard, so the argument of college records his moot. Some of Bush's records only made it to the public after they were leaked.

    The myths surrounding Obama's records have long been debunked, repeatedly. Just do a search on factcheck dot org.

    Obama isn't hiding anything. Romney, you are.

    August 17, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  18. sunpacific

    Romney's Olympics dressage horse earned the family a $77,000 tax credit in 2010, $2,000 of which is for what they spent on health care for the horse. The average American family only spends $1,557 a year on health care. So, while there may be nothing illegal in Romney's returns, they probably have plenty of material that demonstrates how highly subsidized he is by the federal tax laws.

    I thought he was against government handouts. I guess he is only against handouts to the poor and the sick.

    August 17, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  19. the real ib

    Wy didn't FDR and JFK release their tax returns if this is so important. Oh I forgot they are democrats and democrats don't have to do what the republicans do. F&F; what's Obama hiding? Release the papers and stop deflecting on something as unimportant as Romney's tax returns. No one was murdered because Romney hasn't released his tax returns but people have been murdered with the guns under F&F.

    August 17, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  20. USwatcher

    How bout Romney releases his tax statements...then after he clears the air...he can move on to more important issues...as he states.

    August 17, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  21. Bob

    Exactly how much money this guy makes, and how me makes it, and whether he pays taxes on it or not is information that should be available to voters before they go to the polls. The mere fact that he doesn't want to tell anyone what he's been up to makes him look shady. His father had no problem making his financial dealings public. I'd like to think that the majority of Americans will refuse to vote for him until he does.

    August 17, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  22. mike

    He lied about his taxes when he was running for governor !

    August 17, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  23. Geckowise

    Romney is clearly afraid of something...... or a lot of somethings in his tax returns that he knows, if released to the public, will effectively end his campaign run for President. There is absolutely no other explanation for his trepidation at releasing the number of tax returns that so many Presidential candidates have released before him. Make no mistake about it, he's running from his shadow right now.

    August 17, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  24. Jaggar

    I am personally much more concerned that the unemployment rate is rising in most states.
    Obama wants to distract voters from the real issues. The mud slinging is getting so old
    from his campaign. I voted for him the first time but he is a total disappointment. I am not
    going to be a part of this country going totally bankrupt. He had his chance to turn things around
    and has just spent way too much money and done nothing for the economy. Oh yes, he has put more
    people on food stamps and welfare than ever before!

    August 17, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  25. clmyers1

    I am an undecided voter but have been carefully watching the Presidential race unfold the last year or so. Both candidates should be ashamed of themselves that they allow these viscious, hateful ads, both in print, TV and online. They are not representative of the Office of the President of the most powerful nation on Earth. Boy, our politics are the worst they have been for as long as I can remember and very saddened by that. When Reagan was President, alot of Democrats did not like him, in fact many people detested his politics and policies, but he found a way to work across the aisle with Speaker O'Neill and made wonderful things happen. When Bill Clinton was President, surely Newt Gingrich and other Republicans could not stand his policies and positions, but together with the rest of Congress, they got things done and gave George Bush the largest budget surplus in U.S. history. Too bad Bush's policies squandered that money.

    I don't like alot of Obama's policies and frankly am very disappointed how his team has managed this campaign. But, Romney seems to be worse, and his record as Governor of MA was dismal at best. Yes, he was very successful at making money. But, making money and creating and implementing effective public policy are not the same. Then, he picks the most absurd running mate, Paul Ryan, a lightning rod for every women's, ethnic and every other group here in the U.S. Ryan lied about not taking stimulus money and frankly would be a disaster as VP,

    It seems to be inevitable that whomever wins in November will be facing Herculean challenges just trying to get anything done for our people and that, too, is a disaster.

    August 17, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
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