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. Want2KnowTheTruth

    Romney is hiding something, something very, very bad! Maybe he broke the law, maybe he didn't, but the fact that he won't release his tax forms proves beyond any shadow of a doubt there is something very, very, very wrong in there.

    Do you really want a president with so many red flags? Do you think he's going to be at all transparent? Do any of you who are NOT rich really believe for one fraction of a second that Mitt Romney cares about you and your plight?

    He couldn't care less about you. All you are to him are a vehicle to the presidency. He needs your vote so he's going to tell you what you want to hear. If he's elected it's going to be ALL ABOUT Mitt and his rich friends. He will change this country in ways that will impact the middle and lower classes for decades. If you don't believe that you've got your head stuck in the sand. Don't let your anger and frustration lead you to vote against your own best interests.

    Unless a person is insanely wealthy, a vote for Mitt "smokescreen" Romney is a vote against your own best interest. It's voting for that rich CEO who cuts pay across the board (except for himself and other top-level management) so that the P2E ratio of the company is better so HE gets his multi-million dollar bonus. Romney is the kind of guy who will fire every American and move the plant to Mexico where he can hire workers at a fraction of the cost, just because it'll bring in a better profit.

    It's fine to accept business practices that lead to maximizing profits as part of capitalism, but do we really want a leader who has no problem with gutting American jobs for his own best interests? Where is the sense of sacrifice and patriotism in that?!?!?!

    August 18, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. Douglas

    Hey Will, someone better defend the elite as they are the people that pay the taxes that cover all the welfare checks we mail out each month. If everybody would carry their own weight we wouldn't be talking about Romneys tax returns!

    August 18, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. Blake Smith

    Romney, release your tax returns records or quit. If you can be transparent at the outset, then the whole presidency will be engulfed by cobwebs if by some accident you stray near that office. This is ridiculously incredible that he still musters the courage to be etching and sketching to tea baggers. Shameful indeed.

    August 18, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. RS, CA

    A "deal" with Obama is like making a deal with the mafia. Don't do it, Mitt. Obama can go suck dirt!

    Romney/Ryan 2012

    August 18, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  5. diluded000

    I get up and go to work hard every day, and have for decades. I looked at last years taxes and refund, and I paid a rate DOUBLE what Willard paid. I don't mind some of my money going to feed people that would starve without it. I do mind giving a bigger chunk of my paycheck than guys like this. Guys like Willard are born into a club we can't join. I don't want access to that club, I just want them to pay the same rate I do.

    August 18, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  6. Blah

    I think a tax return from another private equity firm manager will show us what we want to see- the carried interest loophole.

    August 18, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. Frankie

    It's amazing to me how no one thinks there is a problem with Romney hiding his financial information. This is clear indication of his character. If he hides this from the American people, what else will he hide? And why not divulge this? If you have abandoned America for the sake of money (investments abroad) then how can you be committed TO the American economy? Why can this be a secret from America when the Republicans were so hell bent on Obama revealing his birth certificate? Either instance should be publically available when you are running for the highest office in America. Seriously people!

    August 18, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  8. Joe Omaha

    Two things: I don't care who paid what in taxes. I care about the issues facing this country. Lack of jobs and soldiers being killed in Afganistan.
    Second: When did the war on class status start? Why is being successful wrong.? I say those that work hard and get ahead more power to them.

    August 18, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  9. Steve S.

    Birthers Vs. Returners!

    August 18, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  10. ProfEmeritus

    Maybe R's tax reports and Obama's school records?

    August 18, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  11. JP

    As someone who was born and raised Republican, I want to be able to vote for Mr. Romney for president. But I do not trust a man who remains stubbornly secretive about his tax returns, the full disclosure of which his own father, George Romney, began as an extremely welcome tradition. I do not believe his reasons given so far for not disclosing. It has nothing to do with Democrats criticizing anything or not. I do not believe him. I expect to know whether the man I vote for as leader of my country is honest or not, at least when it comes to his financial dealings, represented by his tax returns. Until that happens, I will vote for Mr. Obama. I know several friends who feel similarly and if Romney loses, he will deserve to have lost.

    August 18, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  12. felix el gato

    Romney's tax returns are an issue.

    August 18, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  13. Hoosier2012

    To paraphrase and earlier poster: I want to be a "job creator", as the GOP congress called these people like Mittens, with tax rate of 13% or less, but I am too busy working so I can paid a 20%+ tax rate.
    BTW, Mittens, it's a matter of transparency and ethical when you're applying for a job!!! Once a bully always a bully.
    How can anyone so brain washed to believe and vote for these GPOers when they are lying every time they open their mouth.

    August 18, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  14. brownsclown

    This is really good. A guy who makes 20 million a year who pays 13% in taxes wanting to be the leader of a nation where the average income is around 65,000 per year and a 21% tax rate. Very typical GOP strategy and thinking.

    August 18, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  15. John5750

    I don't care about Romney's tax returns. They don't prove a thing. If they show he's wealthy and brilliant, great, I wouldn't want a moron for a president.

    I would like to see Obama's passport and college applications, along with a non-fraudulent social security number. Of course we never will because that would show we have a fraud and Indonesian citizen as our president.


    August 18, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. kmjay

    I don't care how much money Romney has or have paid in taxes, for a man who wants to be president, I just want him to the explain to the american people why he is hiding information on his multiple off shore account. I say come clean and just move on.

    August 18, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  17. Will

    Tea Baggers want to take our country back--wards.

    August 18, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. Pgrass

    Whether or not he did anything illegal is not the point. If he's not willing to be forthcoming with this simple request, how can you expect him to be forthcoming with anything? For one, it's a character issue, and two, by showing his taxes it would put a big spotlight on how unfair the wealth distribution system is in this country which is one of Obama's main points! Why should the wealthy pay less of a percentage of their taxes as do middle class Americans? Because they own the system and it's rigged! We can't put our money over seas so we don't have to pay taxes? Can we?

    August 18, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. on StreetWise

    Governor George Romney was the first president campaigner ever to offer and open up his U.S. Tax Returns Released... Mitt's father made 12 years of complete tax returns available when he ran for the office of president in 1967. To Date; “Romoney” has released only one incomplete year tax return in his last year's return, it wasn't the full report with most of the important finance data (redacted) blacked out. If you have nothing to hide, show you tax returns… NOW!

    Can't you just see him looking down and seeing the pride in his son Mitt on this issue… SHAME on you Romney… you’re a disgusted individual, period!

    Romney’s response; “I don't plan to release my tax returns, and I take every legal deduction, tax shelter and off-shore accounts I can use" “The average voter doesn’t understand the complexities” "We've given all you people you need to know. I've said all that I want to say on the issue, the average voter doesn't understand all the complexities"… (That’s Mittins code talk for cover-up)

    August 18, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  20. Manuel J.

    It's a sad state of affairs when a sitting president is focused on the opposition's taxes, as he does NOT have much to brag about.

    And before you start shouting bin-Laden... think about the military leaks and the lives the leaks put at risk. Lastly, my Army unit twice-earned the Joint Meritorious Unit Award in combat but NOBODY said the word I. WE did it and it took EVERYONE to accomplish the mission!

    August 18, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  21. M Garr

    Mr. Romney is running for President of the United States.
    This is a position of Trust.
    Ronald Reagan said, "Trust but Verify."
    Mr. Romney has said, "Trust me," re his tax returns.
    It is not unreasonable for voters to want to "Verify."
    Release the tax returns.
    Then we can move on.

    August 18, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  22. 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 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  23. southernsugar

    He sneaky and secretive. This probably stems from his cult religion, which is creepy.

    August 18, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  24. justinstl

    People will not vote for Romney on the basis that he simply is not HONEST or forthcoming with his tax records. There has to be a reason why he wont release them. The Government (Obama team) knows what it is but it is illegal for them to tell us. But why does the law allow him to hide this information. Any person running for PUBLIC office should have NO personal private financial records...the only thing that should be private and personal for any public official should be the color of the underwear they are wearing and the whereabouts of their family members and things like that. They should have NO privacy in regards to financial information PERIOD! A President or person holding public office.... just like servicemen are NO LONGER ORDINARY CIVILIAN CITIZENS and should have to disclose any information asked of them short of security information.

    August 18, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  25. southernsugar

    I don't need to see his tax returns. I've made up my mind. Obama 2012

    August 18, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
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