Romney tax release comes after months of pressure
September 21st, 2012
06:30 PM ET
6 years ago

Romney tax release comes after months of pressure

(CNN) - Mitt Romney's Friday release of some tax documents came after months of pressure on the Republican candidate to make public more of his financial picture.

Republicans urging further release hoped additional documents would put the issue of what Romney paid to rest. Democrats speculated that hidden within the unreleased years were politically embarrassing secrets, with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid claiming he had been told that Romney had not paid taxes over the course of a decade.

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Romney, meanwhile, maintained that more releases would lead to only more mudslinging from his opponents. Besides, he said, his disclosures so far had satisfied the legal obligations upon him.

"In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy," Romney said in a July interview.

The documents disclosed Friday included the candidate's full 2011 tax return, as well as a letter from his accounting firm providing a generalized look at Romney's tax rate and charitable contributions over the past two decades.

A presidential candidate's tax records are naturally subject to some scrutiny, but Romney's wealth and investment industry background, as well as his father's history with disclosure during a presidential run, have only raised the interest in Romney's tax documents.

When George Romney ran for the White House four decades ago, he released a dozen years of returns, setting what some have described as a standard for disclosure. At a presidential debate the day before the January release, Romney said "I agree with my dad on a lot of things, but we also disagree." Two years of returns, he added, "is more than anyone else on this stage" had disclosed.

While pressure mounted early in 2012, Romney initially sounded unsure of what he would release.

"You know, I don't know how many years I'll release," he said at a CNN debate in January. "I'll take a look at what our documents are and I'll release multiple years. I don't know how many years, and - but I'll be happy to do that."

But since then, he has referenced Sen. John McCain's 2008 disclosure of two years as a standard, and when he released his 2010 return and an estimate of his 2011 return in January of this year, the GOP candidate vowed to follow with his full 2011 tax year documents. But that would be the extent of the disclosure, the campaign has maintained.

The January 25th release came after several Romney's Republican rivals for the presidential nomination called for greater disclosure and days before the January 31 Republican primary in Florida.

Ahead of the January 21 South Carolina primary, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich released his 2010 tax documents and called for Romney to follow suit.

"Governor Romney, if he plans to stay in the race, ought to plan to release his records," Gingrich said on NBC. He suggested that holding off on a release could lead to an unpleasant surprise for the GOP shortly before the election, should something embarrassing be in Romney's files, and should it emerge shortly before the November election.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul said at a CNN debate in January that he would "be embarrassed to put my financial statement up against their income."

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, who eventually released four years of returns, made a point of doing his own tax returns when asked when his disclosure would come.

"Well, I do my own taxes and they're on my computer and I'm not home," he said at the same January 19 CNN debate. "There's nobody at home right now. Until I get home, I won't get them. When I get home, you'll get my taxes."

And Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for Romney to disclose additional returns both during his own bid for the GOP nomination and after he exited the race in mid-January.

"I'm a big believer that no matter who you are or what office you're running for, you should be as transparent as you can be with your tax returns and other aspects of your life so that people have the appropriate ability to judge your background and what have you," he told reporters in July.

The issue bubbled up over the summer, including after the candidate said in a late July interview that he had been audited. A spokesman for Romney added at the time, "the audit did not result in a fine or penalty."

Romney acknowledged paying a federal income tax rate of no less than 13% over the last ten years in an August press conference.

As the issue reappeared in headlines, conservative commentators called for greater transparency from the Republican candidate. George Will said that Romney was losing out politically on the matter.

"Mitt Romney is losing at this point in a big way. If something's going to come out, get it out in a hurry," he said in an interview with ABC News. "He's done nothing illegal, nothing unseemly, nothing improper, but lots that impolitic. And this is - and he's now in the politics business."

Mary Matalin, another conservative commentator and also a CNN contributor, countered that Americans "don't care about his taxes. They care about their own taxes."

Others, including Romney surrogate and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, as well as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus similarly described the issue as a distraction.

Former Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi walked a line between those two positions, saying in an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room" that he would release more than two years of documents were he in Romney's position.

"But should it be an issue in the campaign?" Barbour continued. "I don't think it amounts to diddly."

Republican strategist Matthew Dowd said in July that Romney "must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them" than keeping the documents private.

Several right-leaning publications also opined in favor of greater releases from Romney.

"Romney may feel impatience with requirements that the political culture imposes on a presidential candidate that he feels are pointless (and inconvenient)," read a piece in National Review. "But he's a politician running for the highest office in the land, and his current posture is probably unsustainable. In all likelihood, he won't be able to maintain a position that looks secretive and is a departure from campaign conventions. The only question is whether he releases more returns now, or later – after playing more defense on the issue and sustaining more hits."

The New Hampshire Union Leader said that Romney position "creates the impression, justly or not, that there is something there to hide."

"No escaping that reality. The impression is there. And it will cost Romney votes he cannot afford to lose," the paper continued. "Those voters might not cast their ballots for Obama, but not voting can be just as damaging. And yes, for using the tax dodges and loopholes legally available to him, he might lose votes as well."

The editorials from conservative papers came as other outlets dug into the business dealings of Bain Capital. One report described "pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas" companies. Another accused him of being "willing to push into gray areas when it came to business." These reports made their way into Democratic ads, while Romney's campaign generally objected to and pushed back against the reports.

Then, Democrats stepped forward with an offer.

"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," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote in a letter to Romney's campaign manager.

The Romney campaign's response: Thanks, but no thanks.

"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," wrote Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades in reply.

An anonymous group said earlier in September that it had obtained copies of prior Romney tax returns and threatened to release them should a ransom not be paid by September 28, next Friday. Romney's financial firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said it was cooperating with the Secret Service but added "there is no evidence of unauthorized access to our data."

While the Friday release seems unlikely to put to rest Democratic criticism of Romney's finances, surrogates for the GOP candidate said in statements released by the campaign that it was time to move on.

"Mitt Romney has now released more than 1,200 pages of tax returns, giving voters an incredibly detailed look at his finances," Sen. John McCain said. "Now that the most recent tax return has been released, it's time to get back to discussing the issues that voters care about. While President Obama and Democrats will try to distract voters, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are focused on fixing the economy, getting Americans back to work and ensuring a better future for our children and grandchildren."

Also see:

- Ryan gives House GOP a 'pep talk'

- Defending Romney, McCain cites 2008 campaign trail misspeak

- Romney to ramp up campaign schedule with bus tour

- Pawlenty takes post at Financial Services Roundtable

- Letterman: No hard feelings toward Romney

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Taxes
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. youpeople

    VOTE FOR ROMNEY so we can lower his 14% tax rate and raise my 38% tax rate!!!!! VOTE FOR NO MORE MIDDLE CLASS! I didn't really want my mortgage interest deduction anyway, along with my charitable contributions and my children may not need to take a student loan out to further their degree. No, I will vote for Mitt so he and his 1% can lower their tax rate more!!!!!

    September 21, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  2. Harry From Pa

    2 years? And that means what to all of us? How about 10 years of tax returns? just like his pappy said 1 or 2 years could be a fluke. So my question is why is the number manipulatiing person like Willard Mitt Romney going against what his dad taught if he looks up to him? He is fake, his taxes are fake. And this election is already done for him, ask the GOP.

    September 21, 2012 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  3. bob

    Reid is only responsible to illegal aliens and the casinos.

    September 21, 2012 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  4. Willis

    I King Tabby Nackle Bishop Mo Man Mittster have recieved about 2 BILLION, yes with a B From raping the US Treasury for Mass, Bain & The 02 Games. I am the most SEVERLY Fake Human Being on Earth. I Willard care about the Middle Class, Willard, PLEASE. & that little thing you did with Fililg your Taxes in A Diffrent State, That is called a Felony.

    September 21, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  5. SafeJourney

    This is only the 2nd return of the two returns he was going to release. NOT the 12 years that Mitts father said sould be released.
    Now, where are THOSE additional returns Mitt

    September 21, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  6. Deb in MT

    "When George Romney ran for the White House four decades ago, he released a dozen years of returns, setting what some have described as a standard for disclosure. "
    The operative words there are "years of returns", not a letter summarizing those returns. Even though a notary has verified that the person claiming to have written the letter actually wrote it (the notary statement has zip to do with the accuracy of the letter itself), we still cannot know–from a 'summary"–if Mittens claimed tax amnesty in 2009, or about his Cayman Islands & Swiss accounts.

    Just release the returns. Enough games, already.

    September 21, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  7. Devon

    Fact of the Matter is, Da Bishop Lobbied & Recieved about 2 BILLION, yes wit a B in earmarks. He loves to Rape the US Treasury & Dont give a Damn bout the Middle Class!!!

    September 21, 2012 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  8. Bob, San Jose

    Sorry Mitt, two years are not enough. I want to know if you took advantage of the IRS amnesty program in 2009 for income hidden in off-shore accounts.

    I'm also curious as to how you have $100,000,000 in a retirement account that has an annual contribution limit of $15,000. Now THAT's return on investment!

    September 21, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  9. Pete

    Romney just showed us more of the same wealthy elitism,living on millions of investment dollars,most from Bain.He's taught well by his Mormon forefathers how to lie its not above mormons to lie to advance their religion,especially to gentiles,Romney did it as a draftdodging missionary in France so to avoid the Vietnam war,none of his sons or anyone Romney has ever served...And his tax return is just a small part of his mysterious Mormon world.If you want details wait till he's in the WH he says,not on my watch I say with many intelligent Democrates,Independents, as well as a huge following of disenchanted Republicans,they're not Romney people,never have,never will be!!

    September 21, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  10. Anthony

    The issue is not whether Romney avoids taxes. Romney can afford tax lawyers, so he can avoid taxes legally. The issue is that he is hiding most of his tax returns, which undermines his credibility. We are not going to let Romney set the nation's tax policies when he refuses to own up to his own tax returns.

    September 21, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  11. No Idiot

    "..the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy.."??
    The failure of the President to reignite our economy is due solely to the radical and near traitorous intransigence of the Republican party of No's control of the House of Representatives!

    September 21, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  12. Donkey Party

    Romney is a tax-dodging serial liar, and if he won't release 10 years of tax returns, then there is no way any sane individual will vote for him.

    September 21, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  13. Thomas

    Sen. John McCain said. "Now that the most recent tax return has been released, it's time to get back to discussing the issues that voters care about.

    Ok John .
    Why did he wait so long to release them if it was no big deal ? He could have done this months ago. If it takes him that long imagine how long it will take him to get things done in Washington .,

    September 21, 2012 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  14. Marie MD

    He is NOT finished. I want to see ten years just like the plate faced vp nominee of his had to give him and the same tax years he gave mccain before he was dismissed for you know who!
    The man who wasn't good enough for vp wants to be president now? Don't think so.

    September 21, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  15. BJ

    What a predictable headline. How about a dose of reality – the tax returns were disclosed when they were done. I have done large tax returns for a living, and October is the month. So these are early. Pure political nonsense.

    September 21, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  16. BeavHunter

    You vote DemocRAT you're an IDIOT!!!

    September 21, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  17. Name

    One mans mudslinging is another mans facts.

    September 21, 2012 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  18. gwats

    A liar doubling down.

    September 21, 2012 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  19. CitizenJP

    Why are the conservatives acting surprised by Mr. Romney's 47% comment? The Governer is merely representing the Republican platform and for once is being honest to the American people.

    September 21, 2012 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  20. luke,az

    Romney said he would release 2 yrs of taxes months ago, where's the pressure in something that he said he would do at the beginning of summer.

    September 21, 2012 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  21. Puddin

    After hearing "the Romney tapes," I wouldn't trust him with my pet fly. Someone was praising him for all the money he has contributed to charity. He sure didn't sound charitable toward those 47% that he feels will vote for the president. When I heard his tone when he spewed all that, my first thought was what kind of Morman church was he a member and pastor of? I think that two year trip to France to pay his dues when he was young, was like...wasted. If Romney is the kind of person the Morman church produces, I'm thinking all those who call the Morman church a cult are right. I'm not impressed at all that he has released his 2011 tax return and a "summary" of prior tax returns After hearing that tape, there's no question that he is a phony

    September 21, 2012 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  22. LegalizeReason

    He stil has only released 2010 and 2011. A summary from your moutnpieces does not cut it , Mitt. As they say, "Thou protests too much".

    September 21, 2012 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  23. vdrumin

    They are all clapping for Microsofts getting away with not paying 7 billion in taxes, just like Romney keep sending that money over seas it's legal under a Republican plan.....

    September 21, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  24. Doc

    Dear Senator:
    1. Apologize for slanderous remarks
    2. Release your tax records
    3. Explain how you made your fortune while working as a public servant, on a Senator's pay. I have a source that says you stole money from your campaign. It is an anonymous source of course, but considering the seriousness of the charge, I demand that you open up and make public your books immediately.

    September 22, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  25. souptwins

    Simply ridiculous!! The timing of this release has NOTHING to do with Dem. "pressure". Romney said back when his 2010 taxes and an estimate of 2011 were released that the full returns would be released when they were done which was expected some time in Sept. Seriously, CNN? Quit making stuff up.

    September 22, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
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