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. Daniel

    If you don't think Mitt is hiding something by denying all of us access to information on his tax returns, than you may be very naive. These constant refusals to provide pertinent information about his finances lead one to conclude that it may be rather significant and very ugly. So ugly in fact that it puts him between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand if he does release this information it could have very profound effect on the election results. On the other hand if he does not, than how can we possibly trust someone that refuses to be honest with us. Mitt I am afraid you have got yourself in quite a bind and you have nobody to blame but yourself.

    August 17, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  2. DDW

    I'm still wondering why I pay 30%. Oh I've got it, I worked for my money.

    August 17, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  3. miki02

    To all register nurse in the USA. We make 65k to 100k depending on over time hours. We pay 25 to 27% on our taxes.
    If you feel this is true no matter if you are Republican or Democrat, please document on CNN.
    Thank You.

    August 17, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  4. The Right Left

    Whenever, I hire people in my company for key positions, I require they show their tax returns. and full dsclosure of their past. We conduct a thorough background check Anyone refusing to submit infromantion is not considered for the job past the initial interview.

    This man, Romney is asking the country to hire him on his word. No one would hire a CEO in a large company without fully knowing all the details of the applicants background.

    Refusing to release his tax reutrns dsiqaulifies him for the job.of POTUS. %-years is the least to be expected out of any applicant for POTUS. I would prefer 10-years.

    August 17, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  5. u laby

    For those posters here that are out of work. What matters more to you, a rich guy's tax returns, or a paycheck. Get a grip.

    August 17, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  6. JeffreyB

    Can we get back to matters that actually matter? Whatever is in his tax returns is perfectly legal and he has no requirement to release them. If you have a problem with it, then change the tax code. I'm more concerned about the economy, my unemployed friends, the small fortune I have to pay for my gas, my ever increasing health insurance rates and rising food prices. Not to mention back burners like why is Guantanamo still open and can we end the farce that is the Afghanistan War?

    August 17, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  7. Mary


    "The R/R campaign is always boasting about how much money they're raising. This is not only an indication that money is the total focus of their lives."

    I am a democrat and I get emails asking for donation and it starts from $3. My husband has not declared himself and he gets from both parties. Romney's campaign email to him asking for donation at $15 and goes up to $2500.
    A guy who could afford to give that much as a political contribution which you cannot write off will still come here and complain about unemployment, etc. R&R stands for the rich and they don;t care about the poor and the middle class. Ryan who follows "ayn rand" is definitely not a Christian what the ever the Catholic church may say. Getting baptism, first holy communion and going to mass every week does not one a Christian. That make him a follower of Catholic Church and not necessarily a Christian.

    August 17, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  8. Sid

    Is this the best Obama has ??? The tax returns aren't important. Until President Transparancy releases all the questionable documents that he's been "hiding", he should just move on to the important issues like the economy, and jobs. Barry Sotoro has spend millions of dollars in lawyer fees to protect the documents that show who he really is, he should just move past the tax returns and start the next smear campaign. Can't wait till they start calling Romney a racist, owe I forgot Toure on MSNBC has already started that.

    August 17, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  9. tony

    "American People" How dare you insinuate that you represent me. For three years we have been subject to The Liar in Chief, himself. Romney and any other citizen is entitled to keep their money where they wish. Once again you libs accuse of crimes without a shred of evidence. You are so "morally outraged"? Have you asked a single question of Senator Diane Feinstein? Why is she on any committee, let alone chair any committee that awards contracts to her husbands company? You are nothing but shills for the most corrupt administration in US history. But hey, he has a D after his name, so anything goes.

    August 17, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  10. Tea Poopers

    President Obama was asked to released his Birth Certificate after getting elected, Mitt Romeny should release tax records for past 10 years. why Not?The sameTea Baggers racist who asked Obama to release birth certificate are now defending Romney , Why is that? It is called Racisim.

    August 17, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  11. Dan

    The point about his tax returns is this: Romney supported the Bush wars, but hid his money from taxation, letting all of the "little people" pay for and die for the wars he and his party pushed on the rest of us, while he kept his millions safe in tax shelters available only to the super wealthy. Why is this significant? He and Ryan claim to care about the deficit, but their plans only provide more tax breaks to the likes of Romney while gutting the programs that have enabled millions of those less fortunate than him to go to college and get a start in life. Meanwhile, his foreign policy advisors are the same ones that devastated our standing in the world under Bush and continue to push for more unnecessary wars. This is this highest level of immorality I have ever seen in a political candidate.

    August 17, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  12. Ray E. (Georgia)

    You mean Absent Boy/Present Boy No Budget boy now is taking a stand on something? I tell you what Hoss, you get Harry Reid to take up the Budget and I will get Mitt to release his taxes for say, the last 200 years. However the eal is up on November 6. Then Mitt will be President and you can ????

    August 17, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  13. Vickie Munson

    You would have to be very simple minded to not believe that the IRS has
    Not combed over Romneys's tax
    Returns very carefully by this point. Especially in light of the 60,000 new agents they hires to administer Obama Care. Romney releasing more tax returns than any other
    President since 1975, except Ford, will do nothing for
    The people that already see him as a villain for being successful. None of us would turn away the success that Romney has enjoyed.... Be honest... If not here at least with yourselves. I don't
    Know Romney personally but from what I have seen and read the only thing anyone has been able to accuse him of is success. That is tragic as far as I am concerned and this one former Obama supporter will be switching sides very soon if the Obama tactics in this election to not start
    Focusing on what his administration can do for

    August 17, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  14. Two Things

    1. Everybody on here who keeps claiming that Obama keeps bringing Romney's taxes as a distraction. You might want to check into Mitt Romney's past campaigns. He did the exact same thing to all his opponents in every race he ever ran until now. During his losing Senate run against Ted Kennedy Romney demanded that Ted Kennedy provide his tax returns on the basis of the public's right to know:

    "It's time the biggest-taxing senator in Washington shows the people of Massachusetts how much he pays in taxes," Romney said in April of 1994.

    In 2002 Mr. Romney also demanded that his opponent (who had released her tax returns whilst Mr. Romney declined to provide his returns) provide her spouse's return.

    Honestly, people, did it ever occur to you that if Romney would just release his returns that the Obama campaign would stop asking for them? It's only a distraction because Romney refuses to release them. He's obviously got something to hide or he'd release the returns. So until he releases the returns, do not expect Obama to stop asking for them. If the shoe was on the other foot and Romney was calling for tax returns that his opponent would not release, he we never stop calling for those. Like he actually already did before. In the immortal words of your candidate: "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." Get used to it and stop whining about being asked for it. In case you haven't noticed goose, you're now the gander and you're getting sauced.

    2. Somebody on here actually said that Obama is slinging mud but "nothing has stuck." Yes, Mitt Romney's favorability rating is hovering in the 38% to 40% range because "nothing has stuck."

    Spew alert! That was a good laugh. I needed it.

    August 17, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  15. tsmf987

    How about mr. prez release his college transcripts? Whats he hiding there?

    August 17, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  16. K DOG

    The devil you know, is better than the one you dont

    August 17, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  17. Debby

    This takes the cake I can't believe the Obama administration is that desperate.

    August 17, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  18. skybill40

    Interesting how they talk about disclosure for candidates running for President... when Obama flatly refused to release his birth certificate until well after he'd been elected to the office and still hasn't released his college transcripts. For an administration to speak so highly of "transparency" and making the citizens more aware of what's going on, it's quite ironic how little of said transparency there is or will be by Obama.

    August 17, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  19. anoel2005

    let's exchange Romney's tax returns for Obama's college papers.

    I want to see those papers Obama is paying to have kept secret..

    August 17, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  20. Bev

    hey obama how about you show us your school records

    August 17, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  21. Karl

    many of Obama's records beyond tax returns that I'd counter with if I was Mr. Romney.

    August 17, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  22. Anonymous

    If I were Mitt I would agree, if Obama agrees to release all of his sealed records...i.e...school transcripts and files....I mean really, why hide this information from the American public?

    August 17, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  23. GH

    There is a quick way to shut this down, the Romney campaign should accept this on the grounds that Obama do a full and true release of his birth certificate. This would shut everyone up and make everyone happy that cares.

    August 17, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  24. OKTOGO77

    Romney's campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, says to the Obama campaign "If Governor Romney's tax returns are the core message of your campaign"...

    No, Mr. Rhoades – the core message is your candidate's avoidance, lack of transparency, outright dishonesty, and overall "shadiness". It may not be a "requirement" to release any more tax returns than he already has, but the reality is that every candidate for the last 40 years (a precedent established by Romney's own father, no less!) has released well more than one year. Romney and his wife may not think it's anyone's business but theirs, but the fact is that he's asking America to vote him into the highest office in this country (and many would say in the world), but he won't be transparent and honest with us.

    Release the returns, Mitt, and let the chips fall as they may. You should have done it already – it only gets worse for you now with every passing day. I don't care how much you've made or what you're worth – the issue is whether or not you can be trusted. You can avoid this issue and claim that you want to address the real issues – the economy, healthcare, jobs – but if you aren't trustworthy at your core, you might as well step aside because no one cares what you think about these important issues (does anyone even know your position on anything?!).

    Release the returns and stop trying to make your tax return dilemma about Harry Reid's "source". Who cares?! If your filings were all on the up-and-up, then there should be no question of their release.

    August 17, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  25. Vicky

    Ok let Governor Romney release his tax returns in exchange for the unsealing of all of Obama's records school , passport etc romney should just call his bluff. We would probably never hear about taxes again because I am pretty sure Obama doesn't want his records exposed. Talk about secretive we actually do not know him

    August 17, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
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