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. Fool

    Yawn – another attempt by the Obama Camps to sling mud......

    August 18, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. Rick in AZ

    The 1% is part of the 47%.

    August 18, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  3. Seriously

    @2020. Apparently you don't understand the difference between an effective and marginal tax rate. You included and 99 percent of Americans don't pay 30 percent in taxes. Only some on the margin. You might want to understand the tax system before you sound off on it.

    August 18, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  4. Nick

    I'm glad the leader of the free world is focusing on his opponent's personal tax returns. That's really great for our country.

    August 18, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  5. Andrew

    I'm mystified at who would continue to employ an accountant who hasn't finished taxes 4 months after they were due. Do you not know your own finances? Plug that into some H&R block program and get it done.

    August 18, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  6. dingo&hoobs

    You fools, he can't be hiding anything. Given the controversy over his wealth both this year and in 2008, I'm certain the IRS has combed over his taxes looking for problems or things he is suppose to be hiding. If no problems have been identified yet, then I doubt there is anything hidden. We already know the dude is super rich and paid the lowest possible tax rate legally possible. That my friends is not a crime, just smart business. Who the hell is going to give the government more than they have to, easy no one.

    I do agree with the proposal that Romney release his tax returns if Obama releases his college transcripts. What would we see. A rich dude who used every loophole to legally dodge paying more taxes, and a president who was a marginal student aided by affirmative action policies. Last time I checked both are legally acceptable in this country, and doesn't disqualify either from being president. Sadly they both are bad choices, but given the crap a candidate has to deal with we may never see a competent president again.

    August 18, 2012 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  7. Lizzie

    I would not have taken that so-called deal, when was the last time the democrats held up their side of the bargain.

    August 18, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  8. Will

    It must be really bad if they are refusing to release the taxes.

    August 18, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  9. Jeff - Sarasota, Florida

    It amazes me how many people can't see the pattern with Mitt Romney and don't understand why the TRUTH about his tax returns are important...

    Romney has constantly lied throughout his running for the nomination and now the Presidency... Not only that, he has tried to pull others into his lies along the way to help legitimize them and he keeps getting busted doing that too...

    Look at the welfare lie a week ago, he tried to bring Bill Clinton into it on his side to justify it and got slammed... Not only that, but the ONE THING that Mitt forgot to mention is that 51% of those people he said were gonna get a free check for doing nothing are white, and the majority of them live in RED (Republican) states... Those are the current welfare numbers... So he is basically calling white republicans lazy and no one even seems to realize that...

    He is a fool and his whole campaign has been full of lies, so if his taxes are so squeaky clean, then why isn't he willing to put them out there and get something positive going... Oh yeah, they are not right, even the 2010 that he released is missing forms and he may not have paid enough on it... I work in the tax business and those missing forms are grounds for an IRS audit by themselves... While I am sure it will never happen, he could end up in jail over his taxes...

    So, all you people that think his taxes don't matter need to think again!!!

    August 18, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  10. Will

    Big Bird is obviosly a Tea Bagger.....defender of the elite.

    August 18, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  11. Joan

    The American people must come out and protest this man lies, polices, and his covering of his taxes, and his bain
    capital dealings. If this man cannot come clean when he has no power can you imagine when he becomes the big man
    at the top. He wil treat us all like dogs. His Mormon religion teaches superiority. He thinks he is above everyone. If he
    becomes the President you all will see the different between him and Obama. You will really see who is Elitist.

    August 18, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  12. T. E. Lawrence O. A.

    WHY DO THE ROMNEYS THINK THEY ARE UNIQUE OR SPECIAL ON THIS ISSUE!?! ALL Candidates face exactly the same issues ('the more we release, the more we are attacked'). They are no different.

    ROMNEY LIED ABOUT HAVING FILED TAXES IN MASSACHUSETTS WHEN RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR (matter of Record) – he had filed in Utah and had to Amend his filings (but still refused to disclose).

    If the man wants my vote and will influence future Tax Policy, we need to see his tax returns!

    August 18, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  13. Ed1

    How can Obama say he has created over 4 million jobs when there are 316,000 less jobs now than when he took office you do the math it doesn't add up.

    Our no leader has spent more money than any other President and doesn't have anything to show for it except unemployment above 8%, over 16 trillion dollars in debt and a budget that he wants that shows over another trillion dollars in debt how does that work out to lower the debt he has already created with all of hiss free spending with our tax dollars and nothing to show for it.

    Mitt is the only person talking about jobs and the economy and you Bozos can only talk about tax returns how stupid can you be. Get on with what needs to be discussed and it sure isn't tax returns.

    Obama has had so many back door deals he is still trying to pay off all his party can come up with is tax returns how sad that's all the dirt you can dig up. Get a life people and start asking where are the jobs and how can the economy be fixed.

    That will not happen until the die hard liberal press and just stupid people keep asking for tax returns that they couldn't even understand.

    August 18, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  14. "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." --B. Obama

    Why is the uhbama so obsessed with our next Presidents tax returns?

    August 18, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  15. standright

    Romney paid 3.1 million in taxes in 2010, 2011 is estimated at 3.2 million. Average American pays $4,030 per year. So Mitt Romney is only paying 769% more than the average American.

    Mitt Romney = $3.2 million in taxes, approx $2.6 million to charity
    Paul Ryan = $37,457 in taxes, $11,600 to charity

    President Obama = $453,770 in taxes, $245k to charity
    VP Biden = $86,626 in taxes, $5,350 to charity

    For all of you crying crook and cheat and unpatriotic about Romney – consider that Romney pays more than 7 times the taxes of your current President, and more than 10 times Obama in charitable contributions.

    And in all of this, despite paying 800% more than most Americans, Romney is not complaining. Quietly classy.

    August 18, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. Ed1

    Reid you need to put up or shut up because all you and your party is doing is dividing this country into class warfare and it's getting pretty sicken out here grow up and prove what you are saying and then Mitt will have to answer to the IRS not you.

    I would bet you are all BS and nothing else.

    August 18, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  17. Stray

    It's interesting that the same people who claimed Obama wasn't born in the U.S. for years are now whining about the demands for Romney to release his tax forms. He SAYS he paid 13%. Prove it. With the long form, please.

    August 18, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  18. Anonymous

    Who'd have thought that the
    TeaPers would become Romney apologists?
    Squirm, little fishes, squirm.

    August 18, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. Anonymous

    Hide your assets. Screw America. Run for President.
    When the s*it hits the fan, get the little people to wade
    in the muck for you.

    They fall for it every time ... eh, Mitt?

    August 18, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. Taxman

    In 2009, a federal U.S. tax amnesty was granted to more than 14,700 American taxpayers.

    On June 26, 2012, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs has so far collected more than $5 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties from 33,000 voluntary disclosures made under the first two programs

    August 18, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. j

    It is so ridiculous that people are defending Romney on this. They don't want clarity on who they may hire as the President of the United States? The same people that expect a higher standard? The same same people that went crazy over Obama's birth certificate? If you have nothing to hide then disclose. If you do then you will continue to hide. Obama should go on and on about his beloved Mitt's taxes.

    I am one Republican that has gotten fed up the the party. Reagan would never have been chosen by these hate filled people.

    August 18, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  22. Anonymous

    The tax issue is simply one of character.

    August 18, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  23. Chuck

    Romney doesn't want you to see WHERE he's getting his income. Not whether or not he's lying on his taxes all though that's a possibility. Just because he hasn't been audited yet doesn't mean he's not cheating on his taxes. The guy has a history of unethical behavior when he was the audit committee chairman of Marriott during the Son of Boss scandal. He essentially approved over $70 million in fictional losses in order to evade taxes for the company. If he does it professionally, then it's likely he's doing it personally. Why else would he refuse to do something that every candidate for decades has done. You want to know if he's a cheater or a lair BEFORE he becomes president and can send you or your kids off to die in a war. If he lies on his taxes, then he's likely to lie about why you're going to war as well.

    August 18, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  24. bill Davis

    Romney is trying to make a deal for Reid to show his tax returns,.
    Word on the street is Reid has some questionable stock trades on insider information.

    August 18, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  25. RobinSInSC

    To Romney:
    From: Independent Voter You Need
    I make my decision in October as to who will get my vote in November based on the entirety of the campaigns and the overall integrity, trustworthiness, and ability of the candidates as shown throughout the campaign. Until you release more than one year of returns and stop hiding behind an extension of the current return, I WILL NOT give further consideration to casting my vote for you. If you are unwilling to negotiate on this important reflection on your own integrity, you will obviously be unwilling to negotiate on other issues more important to the success of the country as a whole and people like me individually. With an electorate split virtually 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats, you need Independent voters to win and the best way to lose us and thereby lose the election is to refuse to compromise.

    August 18, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
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