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. NotFooledByDistractions

    Sounds like a fair deal...yet romney still doesn't opt for transparency. Keep in mind when being asked to trust romney at his word...when he was running for governor he said that he was paying taxes in Mass., as it turns out, that statement was proven to be false, romney had lied. In light of that, why should we take romneys word now? He is a proven liar, he has earned no trust.

    Secondly, in his carefully worded comment he said he paid "taxes" – he did not specifically say what type of taxes he paid.

    Romney is the personification of everything that is wrong with our tax code. It also paints a pretty clear picture of the foolishness of increased tax cuts for folks like him. Releasing his taxes could put an end to the republicans ruse on tax cuts for "job creators" – seeing he pays half the rate that most working class Americans pay would have to be offensive enough even for the most gullible and stalwart republican.

    August 17, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  2. Moggy

    Everybody quit being so mean to Willard Romeny! He's a rich white man who is supposed to be president! Joseph Smith said so! This country was founded, and people like you and me are supposed to work 50 hour weeks with no healthcare or off time until we're 80 years old to support and enrich people like him! Now do what you're told and make Willard's life as easy as possible!! That's what America is all about!!!!

    August 17, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  3. Jack

    NIXON: "I don't need to release the tapes, I can tell you about it." ROMNEY: "I don't need to release my taxes, I can tell you about it."

    August 17, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  4. AwAre

    How pathetic! We cant discuss real issues?
    This country deserves the government it gets.
    I wish I could leave.

    August 17, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  5. NO ROBME 2012!

    Wait.........HE PAID 13%

    WHY DID I PAY 34%?

    What is

    August 17, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  6. Phillip McMillan

    Who cares? I think the Obama cronies should trust the IRS and let them do their job. The IRS handles returns levies fines, penalties and legal charges if wrong doing is present. The payroll at the IRS being one of the highest of any agency I would hope they are doing their job to get all the money they can. Obama needs as much as he can get since the "administration" is giving it away by the million. People need to wake up and realize without change we might end up having to learn another language.

    August 17, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  7. Jack

    How many past Presidents showed their Birth Certificates or School Transcripts? HINT: none. But many past Candidates have shown multiple years of their tax records. The Precedent has been set. Now that Mitt is asked to do what past Candidates have done, the Repubs come up with this Transcript stuff, something never done in the past when a white candidate was running. The Repubs move the goal posts when it suits them.

    August 17, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  8. Texasnotea

    Absolutely incredible! The guy is running for the highest office in the land and refuses to release his tax returns? The only thing more incredible are those who defend him for not releasing them!

    August 17, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  9. Ed

    The president insists that Romney reveal his tax returns but refuses to have his school records opened. What is he hiding??

    August 17, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  10. JP

    Romneys's 13% has cash value 1000 times than many others; people complaining are mostly the ones paying -$$$$ to the treasury.

    August 17, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  11. GripDog

    Another dead subject that Obama is trying to keep alive to distract from his disasterous 4 years. Here is the deal. You provide your original birth certificate, college transcripts and a DNA test and he might give up his tax records! Would also like to know how a community organizer making $12,000 could afford a Million plus dollar and become a millionaire with no real job? In the mean time, you keep talking about Mitt's taxes as we talk about the economy, jobs, Medicare and Social Security. It's time to take the "CHAINS" off of the economy! Carry your a$$ back to Chicago. America should wake up and realize this guy couldn't qualify as a City Councilman let alone a President.

    August 17, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  12. mikle

    Obama cannot show his school record, because it will show he was on inter... exchange student. Everybody know that.

    August 17, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  13. Jack

    I'm 40 years old. Been paying into medicare for 21 years. In 2023, when Ryan's plan kicks in, I will be 51 paying into medicare for 32 years. When I turn 65 I get a $6000 voucher. No thank you. If you are in your early 50's when Ryan Plan kicks in, do you just want to get a voucher when you are 65 after paying into medicare all your life?

    August 17, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  14. scmom

    Honestly and integrity people that's what this is all about. We already know he will tell a lie. This attitude of "I don't know what I paid" is not in his character. Mitt knows where every penny is and what he paid because he is a "successful business man". He won't produce them to make a liar out of everyone because he is the liar.

    August 17, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  15. K DOG

    Obama has given you the golden gun mittens, if your tax returns (complete tax return, off shore accounts) are exactly as you say, show them, then insist upon obamas college transcripts, and then he is in the hot seat. how unfortunate the truth is huh mitt? obama, dont even get me started

    August 17, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  16. Objectively Moderate

    As an Independent, I don't believe that Gov. Romney should have to release his taxes. Having said that, this issue will most likely affect him the rest of the campaign. The problem here is his economic plan and that of Rep Ryan. They call for more tax cuts for everyone but the poor in this country. By showing he is already paying a low %, despite making multi-millions, his credibility is shot. Had Gov. Romney's economic plan called for a balance of spending cuts (military and the raising of entitlement eligibility requirements) and small tax increases, he would have my vote as he would be showing he was serious about the debt. As it is, I probably will vote Libertarian.

    August 17, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  17. Jack

    Millionaires income at their highest and their tax rate is lowest since the 50's. Corporations made billions in profit and some cases paid $0.00 in taxes. Yet Romney, Ryan and Republicans want to take money from Seniors, cut middle class entitlements. If you can't see the lack of fairness, you are a brainwashed fox news watcher.

    August 17, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  18. Jack

    When asked about Medicare, Medicaid, etc, Republicans always ask "how are you going to pay for it". At their foreign policy debate I didn't hear one Republican ask "how are we going to pay for their next war". We already know the answer: cut medicare, cut medicaid, cut SS, while cutting taxes for the wealthy and Corporations.

    August 17, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  19. Pat

    Piece it together – there is something in his tax returns Mitt does not want us to see. If there was nothing there why do they keep saying one of reasons it is not being made public is that it would just give the other side something to use against them. If there is nothing there, why would this be a issue. I don't trust them and before Romney started the primaries I for one thought he might be a good candidate. He has proven his lies, flip flops, does not care for and know anything about the middle class nor does he want to know. Over the past several months he comes across as a bully, self-centered liar who insults the intelligence of most Americans. I don't even think he should have been able to run for gov. of MA. He would not even give MA the documents they needed to prove he was a resident – he said you will just have to take my word for it. As time goes on his "word" is very meaningless amongst all the flip flops and lies. And top it all off he want to totally take women back 50 years. Poor pick for running mate also. Ryan makes Palin look not so bad. At least she did not have a record to run on that you could tear apart.

    August 17, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  20. NO ROBME 2012!

    I see so many remedial "readers' here proposing that Robmehood counters the offer with Obama's school records. WHY have teh Robmehood campaign not done so? BECAUSE OBAMA WOULD TAKE THEM UP ON IT IN A NY SECOND.

    August 17, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  21. Lynda/Minnesota


    Next time you have a job interview, and you are asked for references, try this: "I have given all you people everything you are going to get." and let me know if you get the job.

    Followed up with "Once I get the job, I'm going to take aways all the safety nets you've spent your life building.

    Romney/Ryan – No Millionaire Left Behind

    August 17, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  22. MNTaxpayer

    I have no doubt that Romney has nothing ilegal in his tax returns. But I have no doubt that they would show many legal but politically embarrasing things, otherwise why refuse to release them?

    Yes, it's a silly issue but so are Obama's birth certifcate and schooll transcripts. But if he decides not to release them, that's fine. But there should be no more discussion abut Obama being a Muslim, or birth records, or school transcripts, or the alleged lack of transparency of the Obama administration by Romney or his surrogates.

    If that fails to happen then the Obama campaign should continue to pound them until they come clean.

    Romney is a professional politician and PR man. If he thought the returns would help him he'd be mailing them to every household in the country. Clearly, he knows they will hurt him.

    August 17, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  23. zisee

    Ask the president for all of his sealed papers. Romney should tell the p rez shove it.

    August 17, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  24. barnesstew says

    In 2008 President Obama ran on Hope & Change. He was Hopeing that congress would help to bribg about some Change, but NO,NO, NO is all we got. Single handedly he did so much. He would go down in history as the greatest president, if he got just a little help fr the other side.

    August 17, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  25. Rose

    Romney is afraid people will find out how much of a crock he is...Why else would he not release them. People demanded Obama to release all his records, he did because he was not afraid...Romney is a multi-millionire and does not want anyone to know how he got. No one has explained how he because so rich...Do you know how?

    August 17, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
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