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. dssman

    Romney seems to not trust the Americsn public by not releasing the tax returns. As the great Republican Ronald Reagon said 'trust but verify'. I am sorry but I can't help but feel something is being held back.

    August 17, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  2. Ready

    Obama still not talking about his record huh?? Can't say I blame him.

    August 17, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    I am shocked that so many Americans don't understand our Government's revenue system and how valuable to keeping America well ... is entirely dependent upon taxes paid from it's citizens.

    Perhaps Mr. Romney can give a power point presentation using himself as an example, and why he and Mr. Ryan feel the need to give an additional tax cut to themselves ... and those like themselves ... by cutting Medicare programs.

    August 17, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. dahditdah

    It's not about tax returns, it's about character.

    August 17, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  5. pokey

    I don't care to see Romney's tax returns. I am confident that he paid taxes using the legal deductions affordable through the tax code and I don't have a problem with that.
    Obama criticizes everyone for not being transparent but he is the one who has spent millions of dollars hiding his past. So, Obama, show your school records, your application for a Social Security card, your pass port info, your birth certificate, etc.

    August 17, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  6. L.T.

    Let's just look at performance and resumes. Obama has done 'squat'! He has divided the nation more so than any other President. He is not a leader but a rabble rouser! He is trying to create a "New plantation" here in America where all of us will eventually depend on the government. That is communism! I can't believe that minorities and many other Americans can't see the light. Maybe many Ameericans are that stupid and ignorant! Let's also look at sacrificial giving or donations given to charities. Obama's and Biden's record of giving to charities is dismal. I even have given more to charity compared to Obama and Biden put together!

    August 17, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. groinksan

    Great! What a Chicago bully tactic. I'll stop taking your lunch money if you do my homework. That's what it amounts to! If Obama is really serious about forcing Romney to release information, there should be absolutely NO terms on his part until Romney delivers what they've been asking for all along – 10 years. By shrinking it down to five years, it justifies two things: 1) Obama was never serious about his threats, and 2) by shrinking the number, it is a sign that Romney is winning the battle. The election will not be about tax returns.

    August 17, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. Fuzzy GOP Math

    Charity is not a tax. I think Mitt and his team made a calculated decision that releasing his tax returns was more damaging than keeping them hidden. Lame excuses about releasing taxes causes more scrutiny by Obama camp is just that lame.

    August 17, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. Indy Dallas

    As an independent voter with no affiliation to either party, I find it impossible to believe people will vote for Mr. Romney when he hasn't given us a reason to trust him. This tax thing IS A BIG DEAL. Wake up folks, this guy will be President if he wins, and then we would have to have the ultimate in trust in him.

    August 17, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  10. Jesus Christ

    Romney keeps his tax returns secret like he keeps his Mormon Temple Name (look it up) secret...what else is he hiding from that cult of his?

    August 17, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  11. Frank

    Sorry, but Obama can make no such deal anyway. If Romney wants to be elected, he needs to show the American People ALL of his tax returns. We are going to decide who should be jpresident, and someone with something to hide doesn't qualify.

    August 17, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  12. Bushy Walrus

    Wow really Mit? I mean really? ........

    August 17, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Fast and furious??Oh the one initiated by the Bush administration and the one cancelled by the Obama administraion.Sadly,1 person died.What about the weapons of mass destruction.Where are they??How many lives did it cost.does anyone of this site know where the weapons are.Are they in someones yard??Makes you wonder??

    August 17, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  14. Bushy Walrus

    Republicans want poor people to show valid ID before they can vote, but don't want us to see Mitt Robme's tax returns? Wow!

    August 17, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  15. Bushy Walrus

    Romney has to show his tax returns because the GOP is proposing all kinds of changes to the tax code. It is important to understand where Mitt really is on this subject. Again I say, Mitts tax returns are directly applicable to the discussion on taxes and weath and class war fare.

    August 17, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. Bushy Walrus

    13 % in total taxes from Mitt could mean O% paid on income tax. This dude spends the amount of my yearly income on an elevator for his cars and he hides money of shore. What middle class American is in that tax bracket? Not me!

    August 17, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  17. MickeyD

    Sounds too me like that thar Mitt Romney done Beach-slapped that thar Barack ( If I had a son ) Obama our Race-baiter-in-chief a good one!!!!

    August 17, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  18. Bushy Walrus

    Romney does not have to show his tax returns. and, we don't hae to vote for him either! nuf said!

    August 17, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  19. vowel movement

    I would prefer to see the jobs Obama promised

    August 17, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. alexma

    I love you Mitt Romney, you dont need to release those returns! we know you are a honest hard working American!

    August 17, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  21. Marsha Fly

    Mr. Romney, if you think your evasive answers or attempts at counter attacks will stop the questions in voters minds about why you won't let us see your tax's Your WRONG. We'll judge President Obama on his merits and you on yours. ALSO, you can avoid answering and eventually people might stop asking BUT that will only settle in our minds your hiding and lying about things. Those who have Nothing to hide ~ Hide Nothing.

    August 17, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  22. Bushy Walrus

    Hey Mitt! Where's the beef? oops I mean the tax returns?

    August 17, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  23. Ken Margo

    I'm tired of people like pokey with the phony nonsense Obama is hiding this and that. Just say you don't want a black president. Stop hiding behind made up fears. If you're a bigot, have some guts about it.

    August 17, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  24. Who cares

    Bushy Walrus

    Republicans want poor people to show valid ID before they can vote, but don't want us to see Mitt Robme's tax returns? Wow!


    Compairing the two is a bit of a strech. Any American citizen should be upset that a non-citizen could have a say in choosing the leadership of this country. It's not about poor verse rich, anyone can get a state ID. Everyone thinks he's lying by not showing them, which he might. But whens the last time any of you have met an honest politician?

    August 17, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  25. Berry Dingle

    23,000,000 unemployed, 8+% unemployment for 42 straight months, $16 Trillion in national debt. Obama has all of these problems to deal with, and he chooses to discuss Mitt Romney's personal tax returns? Who cares?? Mitt Romney was very successful in the private sector. Get over it. The weekly diversions from discussing issues that actually matter is wearing very thin with the voters...

    August 17, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
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