Romney called for tax transparency in past campaigns
July 16th, 2012
09:19 AM ET
10 years ago

Romney called for tax transparency in past campaigns

Washington (CNN) - Mitt Romney has steadfastly refused to release more than two years of tax returns despite mounting pressure from the Obama campaign and even some fellow Republicans, who are beginning to grumble both publicly and privately that Romney should disclose more details about his income and put the nagging issue behind him.

Romney says that two years of tax returns are sufficient, and that he's fully complied with the law by revealing his full 2010 return and an estimate of 2011 tax information (he plans to make the full return public once it's finalized).

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That stance is mostly consistent with Romney's position during his 2002 campaign for Massachusetts governor.

Romney's Democratic rival that year, Shannon O'Brien, released her tax information and called on Romney to do the same.

Romney repeatedly declined.

"People who run for public office are exposed to extraordinary scrutiny and that's as it should be, but there are some things that are not required for release, that are private, and I think my own income taxes, and my net worth and so forth are things I'd like to keep between myself and my family," Romney said in May 2002, according to the Boston Herald.

His longtime strategist Eric Fehrnstrom cited the family's "privacy" and noted that state law did not require candidates to provide anything more than a financial disclosure form filed with the state Ethics Commission.

But Romney has also called for greater tax transparency in the past when it served his political purposes.

In the 2002 race, Romney sought to turn Enron into a campaign issue when it was revealed that O'Brien's husband, Emmett Hayes, had lobbying ties to the scandalized energy and commodities firm.

Hayes had filed his taxes separately from O'Brien – and Fehrnstrom, then Romney's deputy campaign manager, demanded that O'Brien come clean about her husband's financial ties to Enron.

"Her hands aren't clean," Fehrnstrom said, according to the Herald. "She can't claim to be disclosing anything until she discloses the returns of her husband, the Enron lobbyist. Under Shannon O'Brien, the state Pension Board lost millions by buying Enron stock when it was collapsing - what is she hiding?"

Fehrnstrom made the demand even as Romney was refusing to release his own returns.

That drew accusations of hypocrisy from editorial boards, but Fehrnstrom defended the campaign's posture, saying that O'Brien was trying to hide important information from voters by declining to reveal her husband's returns, while Romney was simply acting on principle.

The tax return issue also made an appearance in Romney's first political campaign, his 1994 Senate run against Ted Kennedy.

In that race, Romney assumed the role of transparency advocate.

"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, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

Romney said he would release his own tax returns if Kennedy did, but the Senator refused - and so Romney did as well.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    But Romney has also called for greater tax transparency in the past when it served his political purposes.
    Oh waht hasn't Romney called for, and been, for when it served his politicl purposes.
    His daddy started the tradition of disclosing more than what the law required.
    This man is a shameful hypocrite.

    July 16, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  2. Michael

    Romney is a typical hypocritical, out of touch, 1 percenter pandering repuglican! If, the nation elects this egotistical money loving hypocrite George Bush will have looked like a saint and his policies exceptionally good for this countries economy! WE SHOULD LET PRESIDENT OBAMA FINISH WHAT HE STARTED "A ECONOMIC TURN AROUND FROM HELL" although slow, its not plummeting, like when he took over! Losing 750,000 jobs a month! Now, repuglicans say they can do better, the economy is out of the bottomless pit and steaming along! I DO NOT TRUST ROMNEY AND NEITHER DOES THE VOTERS!

    July 16, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  3. Wake up people

    Well maybe Mittens Robmey truly is a real republican. Demand others do one thing, while doing the other. Boy this guy is the queen of flip flops. I wish I could be a fly on the wall this morning wherever the top rethugs are meeting. They are getting very queasy about their pick.

    I wonder if crazy Ricky would still be available??? Or maybe mad Michelle or whalin Palin?? You idiots should have went with Huntsman. But oh well, thanks for the early Christmas gift. Mittens doesn't have a toe to stand on.

    OBAMA 2012!

    July 16, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  4. Charles

    Obama – 'If you’ve got a business - you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen' 6/15/2012 VOTE THIS CLOWN OUT IN 2012. Obama has never worked hard in his life.

    July 16, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  5. 2020

    Romney telling truth.

    Ask Nixon about TRUTH.

    July 16, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  6. Thomas

    Look, regardless of the politician, if you're going to base your campaign on experience from a, b and c you are going to need to back up your history on a, b and c. You can't tout A, say this is why you should be elected to the position you are running for and then stonewall people when they ask details about A. Eventually, when you can't talk to or sell us A, B and C because "well I don't technically have to" you have nothing to run on.

    This is the problem I have with Romney. He has a plan but he won't explain the plan fully, and what I have heard of cuts to social plans I don't like the sound of it. He was a successful CEO of many companies, this is definitely not a bad thing, but it feels like I can't trust his record as I don't approve of outsourcing and deconstructing companies (which are still profitable) for a quicker profit. AND while being a CEO/President/Sole Shareholder and getting paid a six figure salary he takes no responsibility for its actions. He has amassed great personal wealth, but places it in a blind trust and houses it in foreign investments.

    I don't feel Obama went in the right direction with things like the economy (although the auto bailout I do), I wish he ended the engagement overseas sooner, I don't like the drones, I don't like SOPA. I realize that these things aren't fully under his control though and do approve of quite a few other mandates. I believe ACA is a good step in the right direction (although needs to be better fleshed out), civil rights stance, etc.

    July 16, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  7. Noah Ohler

    If Obama was demanded that he show proof of his birth certificate, Romney, by default, must release his tax returns.

    July 16, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  8. Phil Thomas

    Read this article RNC water toters, regardless of how many pro Romney articles CNN posts because he let Acosta sit on his lap and interview, this guy is a joke. All you have to do is use common sense

    July 16, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  9. Getoverit

    And Obama promised transparency in government, but we haven't seen that either.

    July 16, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  10. Larry L

    Romney's tax returns have become a litmus test for many people. If he steadfastly continues to try to hide this information the situation becomes more and more suspicious. We've all seen the "vulture capitalist" history and that whole lifestyle makes us aware of his ability to play loose and fast with the financial world. Did he break the law, will he be exposed as truly unethical, or will his business buddies discover they've been deceived in some deal? This has become a very important factor in the decision process for many independent voters!

    July 16, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. MDNA = MaDge Not Applicable!

    "The Obama people keep on wanting more and more and more, more things to pick through, more things for their opposition research to try and make a mountain out of and distort and to be dishonest about," Romney continued"

    Why you arrogant, pompous, elitist empty Brooks Brother suit! This is not some employee or the mindless member of the Fox flock of sheeple you are talking to!

    WE THE PEOPLE will decide if the information in your tax returns are "mountains or molehills" not you or the Obama camp.

    And as far as Kerry not producing any more than 2 years that is a crock, Kerry produced return forms for each year he ran for Congress, AND he MARRIED money, the Heinz heiress. His WIFE was not running for President.

    YOU are the money trail AND YOU are running for the highest office in this land.

    You have already disclosed "offshore" accounts in the Caymens, Bermuda and Swiss bank accounts, and so now it is pertinent to the discussion to see if you evaded taxes any of those years, on any of those offshore accounts.

    Until we see them, many of the voting public will agree with the righteous right Bible thumpers in saying you are not to be trusted with any public office(I cannot believe I just used "agree" AND "Bible thumpers" surely the earth just tilted a bit on it's axis)!

    So, keep up your arrogant attitude that "paying taxes are for the little people", and you are destined to lose!!!

    July 16, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. Craig from LA

    We all know why he will not disclose;
    1. It will show a tax rate of 14% on 250M – 20 times the income of the average American and HALF the rate.
    2. The millions he has off-shored in Bermuda, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes.

    He stands damned by both. He is the ultimate corporate eletists who plays by different rules. will have to release these returns because the longer he waits, the more damage done. It may be too late already. Do Republicans smell another Dole and McCain moment? I sure do.

    July 16, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. Larry L

    People attempting to get high security clearances must divulge all of their financial information. This allows the National Security Agency an opportunity to judge the honesty and reliability of the person seeking the clearance. Why should a person seeking the most critical position in the World be exempt from this requirement? Romney is hiding something.

    July 16, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    Romney, the flip flopping whiner, is obviously hiding something. He looks and sounds like a shady wall street banker who can't be trusted.

    July 16, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  15. ST

    "There are some things that are not required for release, that are private, and I think my own income taxes, and my net worth and so forth are things I'd like to keep between myself and my family," Romney said in May 2002, according to the Boston Herald.
    Did his father (George Romney) had no privacy between himself and his family when he released huge number of his Tax Returns? Mitt, please stop your excuses. As the english saying goes: "once you take off clothes, you are obliged to swim". Mitt, you decided not once but twice to become president. You must abide to the requirement and that is release your Tax Returns not only two and there is no longer any privacy for you! you must know that!

    July 16, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  16. PJ/TX

    Romney contradicts himself almost daily now. His trust and character factors are in the ditch and he knows it.
    The problem is – he doesn't care.

    July 16, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  17. Anonymous

    well at least we know we can trust him. wait....

    July 16, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  18. Gurgyl

    Why not you disclose 10 years of taxes???? Obama12. Period.

    July 16, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  19. G D

    Of course Mitt has a double standard, just like calling Romney-care nothing like Obama-care when in fact that was one of the key models, particularly the individual mandate. Mitt is himself transparent in the sense that there is no substance or core honesty beneath the smiling exterior. This guy will lie about anything to get elected, just look at his fact check record. Someone who cannot get the facts straight, & worse uses half-truth to his benefit is no POTUS.

    July 16, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  20. go

    maybe he could run again in two years

    July 16, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
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