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. floyd

    I have siad this before and it's really pretty simple folks and the foolish republicans know this ,although they will not admit it . Romney releases his taxes ,he looses. Romney does not releases his taxes ,he looses. In other words Romney is a loser and republicans are morons and they know that too.

    August 17, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  2. Cathy

    If Romney had nothing to hide, he wouldn't be hiding it. His behavior is shameful. I guess he thinks he just deserves to be President and the peasants have no right to look into his past.

    August 17, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  3. John MD

    Obama has proven that he was way too inexperienced to be President and was like a child in a candy store his first 2 years in office when he had total control. He lost focus on the economy and jobs and is now is too busy campaigning a to save his job and not our country. He had the country eating out of his hands after he was elected and he blew it. Sorry not a unifier as he claimed but a divider. He is toast in November.

    August 17, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain: Under the Ryan Plan, Romney Pays 0.87% in taxes

    @smithdp: "I don't really care about Romneys taxes. I'm more worried about his policies taking us back to the 750,000 jobs a month we were losing when Bush left office. I can't tell any difference between Romneys policies and Bush's."

    That's because there are none, except Mittens 'n' Munster would accelerate the job losses and elimination of the middle class, while increasing the suffering on everyone but the 1% by gutting all spending except for military.

    But then again, that would "incentivize" the 99%ers to join the military, ensuring a steady stream of cannon fodder for the 1%'s endless wars ...

    August 17, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  5. DefendComSen

    My local community is using cameras on the top of police cars to autonomously record and search license plates, searching for stolen cars and wanted criminals. Liberals are up in arms that this is a violation of privacy. My response was "If you have nothing to hide, who cares?"

    It's ironic that the same liberals telling Romney that "If you have nothing to hide then release your returns" are the same liberals who cry invasion of privacy every time the government (paid for by their never quenched thirst for more tax dollars) tries to do their job to protect the public.

    August 17, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  6. James Mn

    "The Romney campaign declined". He is being so subversive on this thatyou know he is hiding something. I am fairly certain that he used many questionable loopholes to under pay his fair share. He hoping to get into office so he can leaglize more loopholes and reduce tax rates to all of the wealthy. That will surely be worth more to him in the payoffs he will get in the future. That is what being the president is all about–not the salary or the house, but the payoffs for doing favors down the road. I am sure Dick has taught him well about that. Mitt does not care one bit about making life better for the common American and you can be certain he will not deliver on any of his promises. He may help create some jobs, but they will be menial 8 – 15 an hour jobs. You can clean my house type of jobs–with not future.

    August 18, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  7. bill

    What people seem to want to 'misunderstand', is that the 13% tax that Romney paid comes from investments made with after tax dollars. He already paid regular income tax on the funds used to make those investments. Then the profit on those investments are taxed at a legal lower rate for EVERYONE.
    Why so interested in his returns? If the Dems think he is hiding something, what about all of the President's SEALED college and other records? The other side of the coin, What is he hiding?

    August 18, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  8. The Governors Office

    This subject has been debated before. Romney lied when he was running for the Governors office and got away with it. I am NOT surprised that it has been overlooked by CNN. Yea right! "Keeping them Honest"

    August 18, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  9. The Governors Office

    I still can't get past... A woman would have no rights to options if she becomes pregnant after being raped. Seriously... You are okay with that?

    August 18, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  10. Craig

    Romney has no plans to show his taxes, in fact he has no plans at all. He's a shallow, odd man who will not win this election. Period.

    August 18, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  11. bcrunner

    Ann Romney said it all!! Actually the angry look on her face said it all. He will not release any more returns! What's in the returns is worse than releasing them!! They don't want us to see them... Why would anyone trust this man to be at the help of the presidency, I don't understand!!

    August 18, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  12. AsingleVote!

    I don't really care about Romneys taxes. It's a matter of trust and integrity.

    August 18, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  13. Pditty

    Lets make a deal Obama. You get back to work while you still have a job and try and swing back some of us independents that mistakenly bought your bs. Stop worrying about his tax returns and start worrying about the people you work for.

    August 18, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  14. MV

    I would like to see at least 4-5 years worth of Romney's tax returns.
    This may shed some light on what kind of President he will be.

    August 18, 2012 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  15. valjon

    What president has ever been asked for colllege transcipts? None. Give me break! On the other hand it is the obligation of anyone who is running for President in the general election to produce more than two years of tax returns,especially in Mitt's tax situation. Shell coporations,100 million dollar IRA and off shore accounts. If Mitt is not hiding nothing,then what is preventing him from releasing them? The next President will have to make important decision about the tax code and since Romney might the next president we as american have to know what's in his tax returns.

    August 18, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  16. Steve

    If somebody asks me to do something that's not legally required of me (and sometimes even then) and I don't think they have my best interest at heart I generally tell them to stuff it. Sounds like that kind of situation to me.

    August 18, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  17. CaliforniaBC

    Honestly, it's gone on for so long now and ROmney has refused every effort, even from those of his own party, what other conclusion can people come to but that he IS hiding something.

    August 18, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  18. Anonymous

    The Obama campaign struck out. Romney called his bluff and now Obama is screwed. This issue is going to end up really hurting Obama because if he drops it, then it looks like Romney won the battle of wills. If Romney releases his returns and there is no smoking gun, Obama loses. The only way Obama wins is if there is something in the returns.

    August 18, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  19. Tom

    Willard Romney is behind the tax return 8 ball, and Paul Ryan some kind of Ayn Rand freak. What a pair to draw to.

    August 18, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  20. jeremy

    Yeah, he's hiding something. My guess is that he did pay less than 13 percent in the past 10 years. Perhaps Reid is right. Maybe he didn't pay anything, who knows. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the wrong decision for America. Obama isn't that great either, I know, but ppl, do you want mom and dad to suffer at the hands of these 2 lying crooks! They have no mercy on the souls of the Middle Income!

    August 18, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  21. gg

    ever start watching a movie and you can tell who the vilain is just by looking at the peoples facial expressions? Take a good look at Mitt Romney next time you get a chance.....take a very good look.....and it's not even a movie

    August 18, 2012 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  22. Republican

    I'm GOP and would not get serious with a spouse or business partner if they only wanted to show me two years of returns. It goes to TRUST and building faith. How can I vote for someone I cannot trust? How can I have faith in someone who does not want me to seee their past?

    August 18, 2012 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  23. Randy

    During times of war I don't want a tax dodger as commander-in-chief putting others in position to make the ultimate sacrifice. Until he releases more information I'll wonder what games he has played financially? By present appearances he stands less for America and more for himself. Support the troops.

    August 18, 2012 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  24. Zil Zerimar

    This is Romney's opportunity to embarrass President Obama and he is refusing it? What is Romney really hiding in his income tax returns? It could be something that could break his candidacy. How can't you trust a persons like this?

    August 18, 2012 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  25. Homer

    The libbies want to make a huge issue out of tax returns but wave off educational records.
    Truth is, neither one matters much. What matters is the economy....and a number of other issues....and they don't want to talk about that.

    Tells you a lot about who's in charge.

    August 18, 2012 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
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