Romney tax release comes after months of pressure
September 21st, 2012
06:30 PM ET
9 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. Colorado Independent

    "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."


    Excuse me, the most recent tax return? Don't show us last year, show us his returns from 2008 and earlier...before his idiotic bids for the presidency; that would be transparency. Does anyone really trust Mitt to "fix" the economy, and reduce the deficit, if he refuses to release his own returns? Besides, as of last week, his campaign was in debt to the tune of $11M. Stellar fiscal management. Obama/Biden 2012

    September 22, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  2. mk1

    And the release means absolutely nothing really. He manipulated his returns to show the tax rate he wanted by not claiming all the deductions allowed. He could and probably will go back and file an amended return later to collect what he is legally due. Also, where are his past 10 years of returns. The summary is insufficient as it shows no details. The biggest omission is detail on his hundred billion dollar IRA which is impossible with the 5 grand max a year contribution. Also, what about the foreign accounts. Look, he has spent his entire life avoiding taxes, it was a selling point for Bain, why should we believe what he says now. Won't happen.

    September 22, 2012 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  3. mk1

    Hundred million dollar IRA, sorry, not billion. Sorry.

    September 22, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  4. Nobody

    I think we should stick with Obama.
    I trust him more then romney, for alot of reasons.
    It's really not his fault for getting all the s*it that the bush family left behind, he's just trying to fix it.
    And with that, he's gonna need all the support he can get.
    I REALLY don't trust romney.

    September 22, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  5. michael

    Campaign disclosure law calls for all federal candidates for office to release full disclosure of financial holdings. Romney not only refused to do so, he turned a simple thing like releasing tax returns into this big dramatic issue. If he cannot solve little problems of his campaign how can he solve the big problems of the country?

    September 22, 2012 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  6. aaron

    He misses the point that it's a campaign people paying less than the middle class and Repubs presenting plan after plan, including the dismantling of social security and medicare, to make them pay even less. And, his refusal to release his tax returns has made him the poster boy for the rich who pay little taxes that the average, tax-paying, rational, non-Fox News addicted voter hates.

    September 22, 2012 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  7. kathy

    What a dreamer this nutt romney is for him to think this is really a tax return, i bet George is turning over in his grave for what his son is trying to pull on the repub. to win this race he is loosing as we all are realizing what a cheater you are and the worst liar ever tried to get elected as Pres, your rotton and we know it...

    September 22, 2012 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  8. J.V.Hodgson

    This " information is both meaningless and useless" even alevel 1 Cpa tax specialist can make nonsesnse of these numbers
    Until you can see total gross income tax exempt income then all the allowances claimed and for what, including ( ha ha) charitable deductions giving average tax payments is meaningless but not an outright lie per se.
    I would if this question were a Poker game not need to bluff to win.
    Romney took advantage of the swiss banking income/ interest moratorium with the IRS, and his so called blind trust is another if you like loophole manufactured purely for the very very rich to benefit. Mr and Mrs average do not have the amount of money to make it work and be effective, then we give em a tax break because its a trust for the kids or whatever who then start life rich all over again with No effort.
    How many times in the US have rich heirs and heir esses blown the old man or womans fortune away? thay for sure continue to exist and are not job creators

    September 22, 2012 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  9. fryuujin

    STOP the B S Mitt has NOT showed us his tax returns, 2011 was already know. WE want to see previous years.

    Mitt will not show these taxes because it is extremely likely that he paid ZERO or a very tiny percentage. He is probably the worst of what he was complaining about – those that pay no taxes. Yet he benefits more than most from the government that he complains about.

    Vote for this POS and your a major sucker.

    September 22, 2012 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  10. Candy Taylor

    Why not show the ones where you took tax amnesty? You lying freeloader!

    September 22, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  11. GI Joe

    I want to see his mental health records -- early on-set dementia.

    September 22, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  12. The Elephant in the Room

    Mitt must REALLY want us to forget about the 47% comment ehh? He finally gets around to PARTIALLY answering a key quetion from the public but I`m not yet satisfied.

    1) why did you try to sneak this past us late on a Friday?
    2) We want 10 years of DETAILED returns; NOT a 20-year massaged summary.
    3.) You claim you paid 20% in some years but that`s still less than the rest of us pay. And wasn"t that 20% only because the capital gains rate was higher in those years than it is now?
    4.) You seem to want a pass because of "charitable giving". The problem is, all that charity went to the Mormon Church, Inc. How much went to the United Way, Mitt?

    Mitt you have residency problema with where you filed your taxes before. We don`t trust you or you summary. If it was as straightforward as you are now suggesting, you`d have release the details of the past 20 year tax returns 20 weeks ago. And what about the Swiss bank accounts? Sir, what are you hiding?

    September 22, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  13. Ana Guma

    Why is no one asking for his tax returns when he was allegedly just with the Salt Lake City Olympics? They just might show that he was also being paid by Bain Capital as well as still being its CEO

    September 22, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  14. myopinion180

    Releasing 2011 tax returns that don’t even matter with less than 60 days left till the election? Pure smokescreen on Mitt Romney’s part; what’s insulting about this is Mitt Romney is taking American as fools. What’s even more disparaging is some Americans will not take the time to read, following his every word. Mitt Romney RELEASE YOUR LAST 10 YEARS OF TAXES! What are you hiding? Mitt Romney says, he wants to lead America, but how can he, when he can’t even be honest with America?

    September 22, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  15. crystaldust

    If Mitt Romney released 20 years worth, Reid and gang will say that he hid everything in the 21st tax forms and would want to see that. Mr Reid why don't you set an example and show us yours to see how you cheat the system. You were elected to serve not to skim money off the top so you could become a millionaire. What an easy life you have lead!

    September 22, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  16. honest mari

    Mmmm!!!!!!!! after months of rearranging and repackaging. Wonder what's embedded in the multiple years of tax summaries. And what is the moral explanation for the swiss accounts and Cayman Island investments for a man who is asking us to grant him the moral and patroitic mantle of our country America ,the nation we love so much. Typical of Romney, "give them just what you want them to know and hide as much as you can" Romney you are too shady for America especially at this moment we need transparent honesty, which neither you nor your choice for VP has exhibited so far.
    America is great and God bless her through and through!!!

    September 22, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  17. RudyG

    With so many lies and obvious signals of incompetence coming from the White House in recent days CNN is still fixated on Romney's tax returns! Why don't we start asking what REALLY happened in Colombia, what REALLY happened in Libya, what happened to the promised immigration reform, what happened to the 3 years it would take to eliminate the recession, what happened to Obama's promise to change the tone in Washington, and WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR THE 14 MILLION UNEMPLOYED, MR. OBAMA??????

    September 22, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
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