Obama asks Romney to release five years' tax returns

Sat, Aug 18, 2012, 01:00

PRESIDENT BARACK Obama’s campaign yesterday offered a truce on the issue of Mitt Romney’s tax returns if the Republican candidate would release documents for five years only.

On Thursday, Mr Romney had claimed he paid at least 13 per cent of his income in taxes each year for the past decade.

In a political stunt that dominated yesterday’s news, Mr Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, wrote to his Republican counterpart, Matt Rhoades, saying: “I am writing to ask again that the governor release multiple years of tax returns, but also to make an offer that should address his concerns about the additional disclosures.”

Mr Romney has released his 2010 returns, and promised to release forms for 2011. But he insists he will not divulge more, because that would only lead to further demands. “I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point,” Mr Messina wrote.

“If the governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticise him for not releasing more . . . for the rest of the campaign.”

Mr Rhoades refused the offer, saying it was clear the president “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”.

Mr Romney discussed his taxes at an impromptu press conference at an airport in South Carolina on Thursday. Liberal media mocked the terrible visuals of the event, where Mr Romney stood in front of a prison-like black wrought iron fence and a cactus plant, and wrote notes on Medicare policy on a white board with a felt marker.

“The fascination with taxes I paid I find to be very small-minded,” Mr Romney says in a clip from the press conference posted online by the Obama campaign.

The same advertisement notes that the budget proposed by Mr Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, would eliminate taxes on interest, capital gains and dividends, thus reducing Mr Romney’s tax burden to 1 per cent.

Mr Romney, whose fortune is estimated at $250 million, says Americans will “just have to take my word” that he is in compliance with tax law. In 2002, when he was standing for governor of Massachusetts, he testified to a state panel that he fulfilled residency requirements by paying taxes in Massachusetts while residing in Utah. The claim was later shown to be false, Rachel Maddow reported on MSNBC.

Mr Ryan also tripped up over money matters in recent days. On Thursday night, he issued a statement admitting that, contrary to earlier denials, he had requested funds from the 2009 stimulus Bill for his constituency in Wisconsin, obtaining some $20 million in stimulus funds as the result of legislation he opposed.

The Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe found letters Mr Ryan wrote to the secretaries for energy and labour saying that government support for energy conservation projects in Wisconsin would create jobs. Mr Ryan said he had forgotten having written the letters as a favour to constituents and insisted that, “Regardless, it’s clear that the Obama stimulus did nothing to stimulate the economy, and now the president is asking to do it all over again.”

Like other Republicans who were vetted as potential running mates, Mr Ryan provided several years of tax returns to the Romney campaign. USA Today reported that in June he amended two years of financial disclosure statements to include a trust worth between $1 million and $5 million, which generated between $100,000 and $1 million in income last year.

The trust was part of his wife’s inheritance and Mr Ryan said the failure to list it was an “inadvertent omission”.