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. steveiweevie

    Obama throwing up Hail Marys now.

    August 18, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  2. Anonymous

    If ANYBODY asks me to do something that's not l3gally r3quired of me (and sometimes even then) and I don't think they have my best interest at heart I generally tell them to 5tuff it. Sounds like that kind of situation to me.

    August 18, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  3. Betty

    It doesnt matter, Romney wont win. There isnt enough ignorant people left in this country that would vote for him. They know that. That is why they are trying to pass bogus laws like 'voter id' in states who have only voted democratic in the last few elections. Another jab at the poor and minorities. Romney is so crystal clear on his intentions.

    August 18, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  4. Willy Brown

    Barry where's your college records or lack of?

    August 18, 2012 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  5. Please Grow Up

    If you've got nothing to hide, show the taxes. A guy making a million pays 13 %; I doubt that changes the way he lives and the decisions he makes. But a guy making $75K who has to pay 30% – well, I'll bet he won't be putting a car elevator in his home; he'll be deciding about being able to afford health insurance.

    August 18, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  6. davesfortruth

    How come even the "liberal" news media isn't stating the obvious. THIS IS ALL ABOUT BLOWING THE LID OFF THE BS LIES THE WEALTHY GIVE US ABOUT THEIR TAX BURDENS. Which also emboldens the movement to allow the wealthy tax cuts to expire. And since they are all about the money, of course they are fighting, kicking, and screaming all the way. Eric Erickson from RedState was very whiny about this. They hate the truth.

    August 18, 2012 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  7. Jay Dee

    Whocares, That means Obama would have shown what was asked for, according to the same timeline, two months ago. So that means Mitt is a few months behind. Oh, by the way, where are Mitt's college transcripts? I know they want Obama's.

    August 18, 2012 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  8. Jay

    so shady! he will not be nominated President holding back info like that

    August 18, 2012 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  9. Puddin

    It isn't just that he won't release his tax info that makes me mistrust Romney. It is his air of independency and secretiveness. He just seems to be a "cagey" type of guy, and that gives me this feeling of untrustworthiness toward him As a presidential candidate, he should be an open book with the American people.

    August 18, 2012 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  10. Jay Dee

    Whocares, I wouldn't want you running my business. It's about percentages.

    August 18, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  11. Earl Lee Jones

    Rommey is a tax dodger and not fit for the presidentcy. Lets give Obama another 4 years to clean up the mess that the Bush administration has created.

    August 18, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  12. Bob Ho

    Romney should agree to release his tax forms when Obama releases his college records.

    August 18, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  13. G-Man64

    Liberals are a very sad lot.

    Romney's tax return means absolutely nothing.

    What matters is your tax return and for too many Americans, their tax returns reflect a loss of income and wealth.

    If CNN was really interested in reporting, it would look at what has happened to the average American over the last 4 years but I suspect if they did that, they might actually have to be critical of their messiah.

    August 18, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  14. Brenda Morrisey

    What this comes down to is sticking to your guns and not being pushed around by anyone, including the President. Eventually people will get tired of this.

    August 18, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  15. chswad

    I am interested in seeing if Mitt participated in the "completely legal" IRS amnesty program. Earlier tax returns should show this.

    August 18, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  16. Ancient Texan

    Obama administration;" give us more ammunition to use against you, or we will continue to slander and slime you with unsubstantuated, bogus comments".

    August 18, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  17. LT

    They have lied about Medi-Care (they make the same cuts as Obama), taking stimulus money(Ryan's staff requested the money?), budgets (When will the budget actually balance?), plant closings (Ryan blamed Obama for closing a auto plant that closed on Bush's watch), coal jobs and production (both are up under this administration)... so why should anybody take their word on anyrthing? Some people don't care about the taxes and that is their right but for those who do care it is their right to make it an issue. The American people are conducting the ultimate job interview... He has the right to hide them but it is an issue that will dog him... Release'em Willard!

    August 18, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  18. Jim - CO

    So many people are calling Mitt Romney a liar on his taxes. What proof do you have for making that statement? If Mitt Romney had cheated on his taxes, the IRS would have picked up on it and he would have been charged. The capitol gains tax rate is 15% and cannot be compared with the ordinary tax rate. He still has deductions, like everyone else, which brings his rate down from the 15%.

    August 18, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  19. A Little R & R Not Good

    Lyiing and cheating is the Romney approach...

    Being a coward is the approach with draft dodging and being a playboy in Paris.

    How can republiicans who were swift boating and lying on Kerry even stomach a yellow belly runnning for comander in chief when they know he dodged the draft and let his fellow men die in war?

    YOU SHOULD BE SO ASHAMED! WOW! WHAT A LOOSER CANDIDATE!

    August 18, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  20. Mark J

    Romney's wealth was created by throwing other people out of work. Many of the jobs were outsourced overseas. The tax returns I believe, will reveal the hypocracy of his newest construct, the "work for welfare" canard he just resurrected. It's hard to work for welfare when Mitt and his buddies have outsourced the nation's jobs. The average American CEO makes 435 times what the average worker makes in the same company. Is that at all fair? They'll bump that to 440 or more if he wins the Whitehouse and Congress and the rest of us can choke on memories of our former prosperity while they take those profits and buy the next election. Reign these "Masters of the Universe" in before it's too late.

    August 18, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  21. jon

    When you apply for a job such as the President of the United States you are required by the voter to be truthful and transparent about every aspect of your life. If the voters want the tax returns then Mitt should release them if he wants the job. If not then you are being deceptive to the American people and do not qualify for the position.

    August 18, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  22. Questioner

    13% retroactively?

    August 18, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  23. CTran`

    Obama released his taxes, and did that make him an effective President? Why did Obama not talking about important issues to voters like employment, health care, housing, .... instead of harping on Romney's tax? For the record, last time I voted, it was for Al Gore.

    August 18, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  24. American

    Says a lot when the VP nominee releases more tax returns than the presidential candidate.

    Why is Romney hiding from the American people?

    August 18, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  25. volara

    To 2020
    Do you know anybody who pays more taxes than is required by law?
    Why is he "a crook"?
    If he were a tax cheat, Holder's IRS would have caught long time ago !

    August 18, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
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