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. Asinine

    Great, so this year's election will determined by tax returns and birth certificates.

    Way to go America :/

    August 17, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  2. marco rubio

    He passed because he's hiding something.

    August 17, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. Chris L

    Tax returns irrelevant to what American voters really care about. Economy, Medicare, Employment, Immigration, Afghanistan, etc.

    The more Romney keeps the Obama camp focusd on getting irrelevant tax return information the better chance Romney has when he pushes his agenda unanswered regarding the important crap that Americans will be voting about.

    August 17, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  4. GJGVT

    but every year I paid at least 13% and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why, the number gets well above 20% <– since when does "giving to charity" count as a tax?

    August 17, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  5. Roflmao

    Typical left bs... They can't find anything ..l so they MAKE IT UP!!!! I voted for Obama... Really believing he would at least try to fix what was broken... You know , the ISSUES. (remember those?). Like immigration, debt, the economy etc... How is immigration better? (hint : the answer is NOT more illegal immigrants voting)
    Where's. The debt? (hint: it's UP)
    Where's the economy (hint: unemployment is up)

    Hmmmm. Seems the only thing Obama has been doing is ... Campaign to be reelected (via lies and redirection)

    August 17, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  6. kelsey t

    Ok...So as I read this and re-read this...and then try to wrap my head around this by re re reading again...I've come to this opinion. The "Mittens" want to discuss the economy, not taxes. Interesting point...last I checked taxes were/are the backbone of ALL economies? Am I missing something? Are paying with oatmeal cookies, or PB&J sandwiches? MONEY MITTENS...thats what economy means.

    August 17, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  7. Tom

    Funny... That's exactly what my answer's going to be when he asks for my vote.

    August 17, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  8. geraldo

    13% is high enough effective tax rate. 48% of Americans pay 0% effective tax rate. Obama himself paid around 15% last year, and the only reason why Romney was 14% last year (less than Obama) was because Romney donated millions to his church and other non-profit agencies. It is sad that the President has the nerve to claim that if Romney paid 13% that less than a janitor who pays 28%. Fact is, a janitor is likely in the 48% that pay no taxes. It would be nice if the President stopped purposely confusing folks on this issue. EFFECTIVE TAX RATE IS WHAT MATTERS. Romney and Obama are both millionaires who pay close to the same rate.

    August 17, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  9. The Real Tom Paine

    -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.
    ***********************************************************************
    George Romney was the first candidate to do so in 1964, so your attacks on FDR and JFK have no basis in fact. Do you really want details of a sensitive law enforcement operation revealed, placing more lives at risk, so Darrel Issa can become the new McCarthy? Of course you do, it a Democrat you want to get.

    August 17, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  10. Larry

    I could care less about Romney's tax returns. As another poster said that is the domain of the IRS and I am sure if they had anything on him we wouldn't be having this conversation. I am more concerned about this President's evasion of answers on Fast and Furious, something undertaken by his administration, so save me the whining about Romney having something to hide.

    August 17, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  11. Independent

    Wow what is this guy hiding? If tax returns don't matter to the public as he claims then why is hiding them? Because there's something in there that the public WILL care about! People in this country vote on the platforms AND on the individual running. If someone isn't trustworthy or is a crook or is a hypocrite (pretends to be a patriot but keeps his money in other countries), it doesn't matter if they had the best platform ever created by any candidate in history. I wouldn't vote for them and I suspect a lot of Americans wouldn't. You know it, I know it, and he knows it. As an indpendent I'd like to see these returns.

    August 17, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  12. Mike

    Where's Harry Reid's and Nancy Pelosi's tax returns?? They call for Mitt's from their high horse but don't reciprocate??

    August 17, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I voted for him the first time but he is a total disappointment.
    =============================

    I highly doubt you ever came close to voting for him. Be that as it may, why no mention of Congress ... who actually DOES hold the purse strings?

    August 17, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. SSG Steven Parker

    If the president wants his tax returnes then he needs to show a legitimant Birth Certificate to prove he is an actual American and not a Kenyan like his father. There are way more important issues than when where and how much txes where payed by thye presidtuall hopeful. The economy has goten worse in the past 3 yrs than in the prefence 20 pryor. The jobs that he promised are no where to be found, and will be even harder to find now that the buisnesses have to provide insurance which will take away funds to keep current employment status for some workers.

    August 17, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. AmesIA

    He looked back at his taxes and said...um I paid 13%. That is 13% of what? He has shuffled his money all over the world using every angle, dodge and twisted perversion of logic possible. On the little we do know there are smoking guns. A supposed "blind trust" turns some years of no more than 30k / year retirement contributions into more than $100M? That happens by good luck without abusing the rules of IRA's? In cleaning up preparing for his 2008 run did he use one of the amnesty windows to bring money on-shore? Is that the 13.6% year that included fines to avoid going to jail for tax evasion? The whole thing smells dirty. Couple it with his illegal tax shelter track record from his association with Marriott Hotels on their board and it is clear he has too many skeletons in that closet to open the door.

    August 17, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  16. henryc513

    If Romney is a straight shooter as he said he is, then just release the damn tax return. Otherwise, the American voters will continue to think he have something to hide!! I am still going to vote for Obama!!

    August 17, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. Observer974

    The longer Obama hides those student records from Columbia, where he is enrolled as a foreign exchange student from Indonesia, the more people are convinced that his father vacated his US citizenship and took out Indonesian citizenship instead. Obama likely isn't even a US citizen. Of course, he could clear all of this up by releasing those student records. With 947 half brothers and sisters, scattered across the planet, we need some kind of proof that this guy has any reason even being in the country.

    August 17, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  18. alx badme

    Lets see Obama's report cards. He was given his admission ONLY because he is Black. How come he wont' let us see the C's and D's. I know someone who has seen his report card but hs been threatened not to talk about it.

    August 17, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  19. bxgrrl

    At first I thought of Obama's overture, "There he goes again being reasonable." But Romney's intransigience is GREAT! This keeps the issue front & center. What are you hiding Mittens?

    August 17, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. alx badme

    SHOW us the C's and D's on Obama's report card. Selective admission only for Minorities. He didn't get into college on his own.. In His case the Government really did do it........................

    August 17, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. Rooster Cogburn

    I'm a conservative. Romney is hurting the republican party by refusing to show his returns. Where was Romney when Obama refused to show his birth certificate...

    Romney, if you have nothing to hide, throw your returns out there and be done with it. You are screwing up your/republican party chances by sidestepping the issue. This will cost you the longer you play this out.

    August 17, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. AmesIA

    If I filed taxes like Romney. Donate a loaf of bread to a food bank. Cost to me, $2. Observe that a piece of toast with an image of the virgin Mary sold for $2500 on eBay. Calculate the value of the donated loaf of bread for tax purposes – $50,000. Run it through one of my LLC's as bread futures, short sell it to another LLC, run it around in circles a bit more and claim it as a $1M loss and whipe out my next 10 years of real income. When you're rich you can just make stuff up – heck you can mint virtual money.

    August 17, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  23. deb

    You know there is something there. romney should release what Obama has released, and nothing less. Yes, just like romney raked through ryan's tax returns, the dems will do this, too. But, it's standard now to release them. Nothing less is suspect and it's romney that keeps the talk going. I think that romney doesn't want to talk the economy because he has no plan. He won't even let us know the loopholes he will close in the tax code until AFTER he is elected (if). He endorsed ryan's budget plan, but is now saying he will come up with his own plan. When? When will he release one definitive thing?

    August 17, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  24. henryc513

    If Romney and Obama continue to attacking each others to win vote, then they are so dead wrong. I guess it is time for me to move back to Mexico!!

    August 17, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  25. asdf

    Why is romney fighting so hard to take away our deductions like mortgage, student loan, child deductions, yet, he is willing to pay lobbyists millions of dollars to keep and INCREASE his deductions while he pays only 13%???

    Something doesn't seem right about that.

    August 17, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
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