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. Ken Margo

    @vowel movement. The president has had over 26 straight months of job growth. Created over 4.6 million jobs. Because you don't have the smarts to get one of those jobs, don't blame the prez.

    August 17, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. orfun1

    What is Mitt hiding? He lies several times in a day and he wants us to believe in him, really Mitt. People used to be embarrassed when they were caught in a lie...Is there no honor in politics anymore. The media allows them to lie and get away with it...It is time they do their job. We need honor back in politics!!!!

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

    Mitt needs to go back to Salt Lake and open up a Burger King on Temple Square! Then he can call himself a job creator!

    August 17, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  4. Ken Margo

    @alexma. Would you love Romney if he shifted your job overseas?

    August 17, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  5. Who cares

    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.


    I think you're more worried about his skin color than most since you had to bring it up. By your logic people must not want a white president because they think Mitt is hiding his tax returns.

    August 17, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. Bushy Walrus

    Obama doesn't need to talk about his records etc. He's already the President! Robme is a wannabe who probably won't make it past convention. "W" has a better chance at a 3rd term than Robme does at a first one!

    August 17, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  7. Gina Kelly

    Mitt doesn't want to release the tax forms because he states that the Dems will distort them. If there is nothing in there to hide, there is nothing to distort. Like maybe you paid no taxes due to loopholes, tax shelters and offshore accounts and blind trusts. If I can't trust you to just release your tax records like every other candidate in history has done, how can I possibly put my faith in you to run this country with full disclosure and transperancy? You hide behind that cheezy smile but you are fooling no one. In the words of Joe Biden, it is a BFD! What else are you hiding with all your half truths and shady political outlines for the future of this country? You are definitely not to be trusted. And the Obama birther issue is such a non-starter. Really!!

    August 17, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  8. FedUp

    Why does Obama want to make a deal? Is Harry Reid wrong? If Romney has paid taxes for the ast 10 years, Reid should be p-ut in jail, along with anyone else who has uttered the accusation.;

    August 17, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  9. J R Brown

    Romney has dislosed all that is required by law. If Obama wants to make a "deal", let's hear him offer to unseal all his own records if Romney will give up his tax returns.

    It's LUDICROUS that Obama calls out Romney for "hiding something" when the very first thing he did when sworn in was to make any and all relevant records of his own a "national security secret".

    F Obama. Put up or shut up....let's see those financial aid forms from your college days.

    August 17, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  10. DaveinCincy

    Hey Barrack....how about he releases his tax records, when your release your school transcripts?
    We'd love to see how you failed macro economics 2x

    August 17, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. fullclarity

    Romney has yet to talk substantively about any of his plans to address the issues that America faces. Thus far, it's been not much more than rhetoric and vote for me because I'm a good guy. That's not enough. Or, if that's all he has, then he really should not become president.

    August 17, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  12. JDinHouston

    Take the deal, Mitt. You don't want to see what's behind door number two.

    August 17, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  13. TheTraveler

    What the folks in Mitt Romney's camp fai to realize is that the "tax disclosure issue" is a test of personal integrity. If Mitt Romney has nothing to hide, then be open and disclose the information. The more he refuses, the more he is perceived by people as not a desirable candidate...

    August 17, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. Bushy Walrus

    GOP is the ultimate party of "NO". No I won't compromise, No, I won't vote on it. No new Ideas, No plan for the future and No hope of electing a President this go around. I do like the fact that Ryan drove the weeniermobile. Too bad Romney is the biggest weenier of them all.

    August 17, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  15. Ken Margo

    @Who Cares Republicans (aka birthers) Have accused this president of hiding his birth certificate., although he's shown the short form, long form and announcement in the paper and for some it still isn't enough. YET The white guy is hiding his taxes. No complaints from birthers. What could be the difference??????

    August 17, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  16. Seth Sharon

    What a sad sad day for liberals.

    August 17, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  17. Ed1

    Again Obama and his den of thieves are trying anything to divert attention away from the crappy job he has tried to do.

    Obama you and your thugs should stick to the problems we have and not Mitt will not release his tax returns and by the way it has nothing to do with trust but everything to do with cheap shoots. I would say the people who are asking to see his tax returns couldn't even understand them and so the talking heads would put their spin on it.

    Enough about tax returns why can't we focus on jobs and the economy that's where the beef is.

    It's nobodies business about tax returns except between the IRS and Mitt. I would rather have a person leading this Country that understands the economy and debt reduction that the no leader we have now.

    Hold Obama accountable for not cutting the debt in half after three years like he promised and remember the DEMS had both houses the last two years of Bush and the first two years of Obama and look at the debt Obama has added.

    Wake up America and put the crack pipe down what Obama is doing to this Country needs to stop now not when it's to late.

    August 17, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  18. Major Havoc

    Let's just get real. if Romney's tax returns were the most pristine ever.. does anyone think the Obama campaign will say "Well folks, we took a look and everything looks fine"? haha you got to be kidding me. Of course the OPPOSING side is going to try to find anything and everything and twist it, no matter how good it is. It is a lose-lose for Romney and he would be stupid to give in to an opposing camp's demands who's only goal of course is to defeat him. He has absolutely zero need to.

    IT'S A TRAP. 🙂

    August 17, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. JDinHouston

    Reid says Romney is telling a bit fat lie about his taxes, and Romney says he's paid some. Why won't Romney release the taxes and destroy Reid in the process? Simple, it's because Romney is hiding something from the American people. Reid is either right, or Romney has something very anti-American in his taxes that he doesn't want any of us to see. Either way, it's a valid demand – Romney, release your taxes. Be the man your father was and honor his legacy. Otherwise, you have no honor.

    August 17, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  20. Bushy Walrus

    You are a piece of work DaveinCicny! Obama needs to show nothing because he's the President. Robme is a wannabe that wants to talk about tax reform, therefore he needs to show his returns to be credible. Taxes and who pays what ARE the issue here so your boy needs to show his tax returns. He should do this before they are leaked on Wiki!

    August 17, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. ron

    Romney Hood is a fraud. That's why he won't show his tax returns. He's a slimy corporate hack who has used his money to avoid paying taxes the average American has to pay. He gives 10% of his "income" to charity because he can deduct it from his taxes. That's not a bad thing because everyone does it, but not everyone talks about it as if they don't get that deduction! I believe he has hidden money through his shell companies and offshore bank accounts while the average middle-class American pays better that 20% ON FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS! So, yes, I want to see the returns. No returns, no vote.....period!

    August 17, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  22. Tom Joad

    Mitt will pass on anything that he can't take advantage of.

    August 17, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. JDinHouston

    We already know that Romney bet against the US dollar and made money (in Euros). We already know that Romney has offshore accounts and shell companies in countries known as tax dodge and tax havens. My belief, especially after so much pressure even from conservatives, is that Romney has a long string of investing against America and making money overseas and doesn't want anyone to see it. He's rich, not the first rich guy to run, that isn't the issue. If he's played fast and loose with some edge tax games and his investments show him profiting against America, that makes him unfit to be our leader. Romney can shut all this down, can prove Reid flat out wrong, but he won't. That can only mean there is something ugly in those returns, uglier than proving Reid is wrong.

    August 17, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. Tom Joad

    If you vote for Mitt the twit you have to either be racist or a total fool.

    August 17, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  25. Ancient Texan

    Ken Margo- There are fewer people working today than when Obama took office, in fact fewer people than anytime since 1983. Obama has created ZERO JOBS!

    August 17, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
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