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. 1ofTheFallen

    Romney needs to tell Obama that he will release his taxes when Obama releases his college transcripts. If Obama doesn't have anything to hide then he should release his college records. I have a feeling that Obama is not nearly as smart as he pretends or else he would have been hired by a top law firm.
    What is Obama hiding?

    August 17, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  2. 1ofTheFallen

    Romney needs to tell Obama that he will release his taxes when Obama releases his college transcripts. If Obama doesn't have anything to hide then he should release his college records. I have a feeling that Obama is not nearly as smart as he pretends. If he was then he would have been hired by a top law firm.
    What is Obama hiding?

    August 17, 2012 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  3. JuJuBee

    Please – enough is enough. Don't release anything. It will only distract us from the issues that important – the economy and jobs.

    August 17, 2012 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    @Ancient and Ignorant 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!
    You're not a math major. If president Obama inherited an economy where 8.5 million jobs were already lost before he took office, we would have to create more jobs than 8.5 million to break even. With the Republicans obstructing all progress, it's remarkable he's been able to create over 4 million new jobs. Hate does not make you a good American.

    August 17, 2012 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  5. Larry L

    @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!
    8.5 million jobs lost before he took office. That many new jobs needed to have more prople working. Over 4 million created with a completely obstructive Republican Comgress. "Ancient" doesn't mean stupid.

    August 17, 2012 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  6. Mary Ann

    BigBird Johnson,No big deal,are you nuts or just drinking too much koolade

    August 17, 2012 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  7. Larry L


    Why has the debt climbed?
    It climbed because another Republican "businessman" operated a cut & spend economy, got in bed with Wall Street, and started two wars he didn't put on the books. The economy tanked before President obama took office. Republicans obstructed all progress towards a recovery. Where were you?

    August 17, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  8. Larry L

    Anybody who votes for Romney without seeing his tax returns is a fool. He's hiding them for a reason! You wouldn't vote for him if you saw them. Doesn't that mean anything to you?

    August 17, 2012 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  9. Jersey Girl

    Just finished watching Bill Maher on my dvr. In his monologue he says that Paul Ryan is a far far right wing ideologue. (True) and that he's kind of an "English-speaking version of Sarah Palin." Earlier Ed Schultz on his own show explained ELEVEN lies from Romney & Ryan. Believe me, there are more than that. Maybe he'll get to those another day!

    August 17, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  10. Nick

    Sure, 5 years seems reasonable. Mitt would agree should the President agree to release his College Transcripts and take a lie detector concerning his Birth Certificate.

    August 17, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  11. mkriley

    How about a trade: Tax returns for Obama's colledge transcripts. And scholarship information. Bet Barry will run away with his tail between his legs.

    August 17, 2012 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  12. dee

    For all of you complaining that Obama hasn't created any jobs, let me remind you that the President does NOT create jobs...CONGRESS DOES...so what has the GOP controlled Congress done for the economy? At least the President put a jobs bill on the table...the GOP rejected it WITHOUT offering their own plan...so if you want to blame someone, make sure it's the right person...

    August 17, 2012 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  13. dee

    @BigBird Johnson...Obama has given a birth certificate, blood samples, hair for DNA test, fingerprints and everything else under the sun to PROVE that he is a citizen...it shouldn't be that far of an outlandish request for Romney to release his tax returns...you wanted blood from Obama but nothing from Mitt...please....

    August 17, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  14. Tim in Omaha

    Obama wants the tax returns in exchange for not demanding more... Just how stupid are they? Oops, get something for nothing, oh yea, that's the world they live in.

    When the media demands returns from everyone, not just non-Democrats, maybe we can take it seriously. Until then, people like Pelosi make tens of millions on closed door stock deals (see 60 Minutes) and no one outside 60 Minutes pursues it.

    And when Obama releases his legal papers, tax returns and transcripts, maybe we can see a balanced response in the media.

    August 17, 2012 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  15. Julius Raynor

    You got to be a fool to believe Romney on why he don't release his taxes. Only know of two kinds of people who put their money in overseas banks. Tax Dodgers and Drug Dealers!

    August 17, 2012 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  16. Jersey Girl

    Romney Hood is not like you and me, folks. He has never had to admit to anything so he thinks he can continue these shenanigans. Ten years ago he tried to pretend that he had filed his taxes in Massachusetts, because he wanted to run for governor there and had to prove he lived there for a number of years. But – suprise – he had really filed in Utah, but tried to cover it up and kept saying publicly he had filed in Mass. Well, he got found out and so had to RETROACTIVELY (oh where have we heard that word before??) re-file his taxes. And now he wants us to take his word for it? I think not. We as a people need to show him what we think of deceitful high-brow people like him & his wife & her 2 Cadillacs and prancing horse. It's time people – in November.

    August 17, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  17. Jake

    Mitt doesn't want to show that he took the amnesty deal he got when the government offered all Americans with illegal Swiss bank accounts that deal. The deal was simple, closed the illegal account, pay the taxes that were not paid on those accounts, pay the penalty, and you avoid prosecution for tax evasion.

    And so Mitt had to file an amended return with a IRS form that indicates the amount he had to pay, the penalty, and that it was under the amnesty program. Mitt will never release that tax return because then it will show that he cheated, got caught, faced prosecution if he didn't agree to the terms of the amnesty program. That's what Mitt doesn't want America to see.

    August 17, 2012 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  18. Annoyed

    Commissioner v. Newman written opinion by one of the judges:

    "Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rick or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant."

    To be honest, the Democratic party is doing the Republicans a huge favor by focusing on something trivial instead of focusing on making the country better, because there's no way Obama can focus an entire debate on tax returns once it gets down to that point in the campaign...and as a small disclaimer, I felt the same way about the birther movement.

    August 17, 2012 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  19. Guest

    I promise you Romney/Ryan won't waste time with the Hollywood foolery and the golf, basketball, and coctail parties galore. The 2 of them are hard workers and will actually put in long hours to fix this mess. How do I know? That's what they have always done.The best predictor of the work ethic is work history.

    August 17, 2012 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  20. MalibuChick

    Usually when one offers a DEAL they offer something in return. Why didn't Obama offer his academic records in return? This ISA non issue and a distraction. Obama can only run on distraction because he is a failure.

    August 17, 2012 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  21. Jersey Girl

    I agree – you GOP guys should have gone with Huntsmann! I hope after the president gets re-elected there is an investigation on how Willard Romney could possibly have an IRA that contains MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of dollars when the limit is only $5,000 or $6,000 per year! I am telling you folks, the rich are not like you and me....

    August 17, 2012 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  22. jerswift2002

    Who cares about how much money he made or makes

    August 17, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  23. dannymetro

    Romney the Double Dodger......dodged taxes and the draft

    August 17, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  24. Diane

    Ashleigh Banfield has become unhinged, as they say, in her rant today about Mitt Momney's taxes. Is she trying to be the Rachel Maddow of CNN? Wow, she has it in for Governor Romney, what a waste of air time. Why isn't she demanding answers to the big questions of the day that are not being addresses by the President or Congress...jobs, high gas prices, high food prices, record numbers of people in poverty, an almost nuclear IRAN...it's an endless list. Where is the hard journalism? Mit Romney's tax returns, which were probably audited by the IRS, by the way, have zero to do with the deep problems facing this country and the lack of any leadership form this president.

    August 17, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  25. Melo-D

    Well since the GOP is frothing about Obama's school records I guess he should just say I got all A's. In response to Willard just saying I paid my taxes. That is as specific as Willard has got the whole campaign.

    August 17, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
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