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. Ezihe MartinO

    Americans vote for the right person. Also allow your discretion to guide you

    August 17, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  2. NoLongerRepublican

    Obama stretches the olive branch to romney....Lets see if the narcissist will take it. If he is smart he would. Its gonna look even more suspicious if he refuses this deal, and the pressure is gonna double.

    August 17, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  3. RBS

    I guess just one simple question; Why not? If you don't have anything to hide just show it and move on, I don't think anybody really cares if you got tax breaks and such but if every candidate is showing why not you, sorry I'm independent and filing an extension is fine no problem, but you should show your tax returns put it in Obama's face so we can move on with the debate, If you have nothing to hide why hide?

    August 17, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  4. Sue

    hmmmmm, important that Mitt shows 5, 10, 20 years but Geitner is put in charge of the IRS and didn't file taxes for how many years(it was an oversight). We'll leave you alone if you show us 5 years......Is that a threat from a 5th grader? I guess next they're going to hold their breath, turn blue and stomp up and down on the ground.
    Most people are worried about people having jobs, Obama and his people are only worried about keeping their own jobs.....

    August 17, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  5. zlulz

    When is Obama going to release his school transcripts?

    August 17, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  6. Dave

    How can Romney proudly say that he paid 13% a year in taxes for the past 10 years? To qualify for that rate, your reported income has to be less than $50,000 a year. That's crazy how lawmakers in Congress (including Ryan) pass laws that benefit the rich so disproportionately. I don't believe in redistribution of wealth, just a fair and even tax system. Not right that I'm paying 28% in Federal taxes alone while someone as rich as Romney pays less than half that rate. While I feel sick in my stomach every time I see him on television, the Democrats haven't done anything either in regards to a fair tax system.

    August 17, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  7. David in Houston

    Just release the damn returns & get it over with! Geez!

    August 17, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  8. Discontent citizen

    Both of these candidates are clowns. How is this any different from the birther theorists during Obama's first campaign.

    August 17, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  9. anoel2005

    let's exchange Romney's taxes for Obama's college papers.

    I'd rather see Obama's college papers since he's spent millions to keep them a secret.

    August 17, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  10. SuperD

    Here's why Obama will not release his college records.

    He applied at Columbia as a Foreign exchange student. So this means 1 of 2 things, he either misreprensented his status by claiming to be a foreigner (taking $$ that would have gone to a legit foreigner) or he is foreign born which is why there are so called "birthers".

    Either way, stinks to high heaven.

    I think they both should drop this, especially Obama, his damage control would be 50 times higher than Romney's.

    August 17, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  11. Jill

    Mitt not even willing to release 5 years back - what does that say? He does have something to hide. Frankly, even saying publicly that he paid at least 13% really makes me made. I have worked full time all my life for middle and upper middle class wages and always paid 25 to 28% and at times even more. It just doesn't set right with me that people pay so little and take so much from our country. They are raping our country.

    August 17, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  12. dodgedart66

    All you liberals know that Mitt's only income is from investments? He already made the money, now he just lives off of it. The tax rate he pays is the same that any Democrat politician pays on his or her investment income.

    August 17, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  13. NamePat

    I have been a Republican for years..however, this year I'm switching parties. I am ashamed to be associated with the GOP. They are the root cause of the economic mess we're in....and they all need to be replaced, starting with their god, Grover Norquist...

    August 17, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  14. Tmo

    As a measure of good faith, Oblamo should release his college transcripts.

    August 17, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  15. Kay

    Oh for Heaven's sake, we all know Romney is wealthy. We all know his taxes are done by a team of accountants. If there's anything illegal in there, he would have been smoked out by the IRS long ago. He's too big a target to ignore. The Obama campaign is just trying to use it to divide voters using class envy. Let's just get on with the real issues: jobs, debt, entitlements, and how to solve the problems. We can't keep pretending everything is fine or will go away by itself.

    August 17, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  16. Paul Williams

    Why doesn't President Obama offer a better deal. If Mitt Romney releases 5 Years of Tax Returns, Obama will in turn release the requested Fast and Furious Documents, and all of Obama's school records.

    August 17, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  17. Jill

    Another point, Mitt has only filed an estimate for his taxes due for 2011. Now he has an entire accounting firm (he has referred to them in his responses) that work on his taxes. Not just one accountant but a firm of accountants to why in the world can't they get these completed – It is August for god's sake!

    August 17, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  18. cathy

    Doesn't want to release 5 either....what is he hiding?

    August 17, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  19. rrd

    C. Douglas P.

    If you ask me, the Romney Campaign is showing the exact same gestures the Republicans in Congress are expressing ... "no, No, NO!" I have observed how far that has gotten us in recovering the economy. It does not work in Congress and it will not work in the Executive Office.

    You should include Harry Reid in your list. He has 30+ republican sponsored bills on his desk he won't even bring to the floor for debate.

    August 17, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  20. Marry

    It is about what is Romney to do should he become President. He then would have to be the President of ALL the people and how can we believe that if he loves and profits from a rigged system? He wants to cut Government services to the middle class and poor but how about the “sacrificing” of the rich?

    Fact is he will not touch or change anything that needs to be changed because he profits from the way it is and he would fight tooth and nails to keep moving the countries riches up to his buddies, not try to give same treatments to all.
    His tax-returns (since he is very rich) would show exactly that – how the rich profit from the whole system of lobbying, subsidies, tax shelters, creative bookkeeping, special deals – and then insult the “average” people (95%) some more why they do not “pull themselves up” or borrow from their parents…

    That is why it is important to look closely at Romney’s “creative” tax-returns. He does not want to show them because he knows; it will become prominent and obvious how the 98% are being ripped off! He knows, when more people start to understand what the GOP has been up to, not many will be voting against their interests anymore and he can kiss his dreams of the Presidency good bye!!!!

    August 17, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  21. Malory Archer


    Romney should agree if Obama releases the Fast and Furious documents he's hiding. Deal, Obama?


    Yeah, let's release classified documents that could undermine other classified operations and endanger a lot of law enforcement. Oh wait a minute – unlike the regime of the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who leaked names of CIA operatives, President Obama won't endanger those who are working to protect us (and in their case they did it out of revenge) by doing what you're demanding.

    August 17, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  22. Rags

    "who care about Mitt Romney tax returns?" I do as well as many, many others. Not so much to see what he made but to see if he was honestly reporting as we are required to. If he refuses to be up front with the voters, maybe he's a cheat that needs to hide things away from us. I'm sure his accountants know how to hide money so no taxes need to be paid and if that is done honestly then he has no fear. The fact that he won't do that indicates an unwillingness to be honest. Really, what is he afraid of?

    August 17, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  23. Ernie Zippreplat

    Obama offering Rommey a deal, who the hell does he think he is? That messiah title has gone to his head. Rommey should say to Obama, vacate the Whitehouse now and we will not embaress you any further. How is that Barack?

    August 17, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  24. George of the Gungle

    If there was anything illegal, the IRS, SEC, state of Massachusetts and bunch of other federal and state agencies, has had years to go after Romney.

    August 17, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  25. Tom

    "Yes tax returns are important, I don't want someone for president who hides his (Taxable Income) in shady off shore tax havens. Remember this statement, "Only Poor People Pay Taxes"", but a current Pres can seal his entire past with his citizenship even in question?

    August 17, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
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