Obama asks Romney for 5 years of tax info

2012-08-17 20:00
Mitt Romney (File, AP)

Mitt Romney (File, AP)

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Washington - President Barack Obama's re-election team made rival Mitt Romney a surprise offer on Friday: Release five years worth of your private tax returns and we will stop talking about the other five.

Obama's Republican challenger, a multimillionaire former private equity baron, has been lambasted by Democrats for refusing to release a decade's worth of his personal tax returns from before 2010.

"Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide," Obama's campaign manager Jim Messina wrote in a letter to his counterpart, Matt Rhoades.

"So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point," he promised.


"If the governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticise him for not releasing more - neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign."

There was no immediate reaction from the Romney campaign, and commentators were quick to declare the Obama campaign's move a disingenuous manoeuvre designed to keep the challenger on the back foot.

Describing Obama's offer as "surely not unreasonable", Messina said a five-year disclosure would help the clear up outstanding questions about Romney's tax history, including the range in the effective rates he paid.

"Other presidential candidates have released more, including the governor's father who provided 12 years of returns," Messina noted. Romney's father George Romney unsuccessfully ran for president in 1968.


The release of Messina's letter comes a day after Romney offered his fullest explanation to date about his tax status, saying he paid at least 13% a year over the past decade, a much smaller proportion than most US wage-earners.

But Obama's campaign appeared less than impressed, demanding proof.

Romney paid an effective tax rate of 13.9% in 2010, according to returns he has released, as his income from investments was taxed as a capital gain rather than under the higher rates applied for salaried income.

Observers saw Messina's letter as a way to fuel the controversy and keep it in the headlines.

David Gregory, political journalist and moderator with broadcaster NBC, called the move "total gamesmanship, an opportunity to keep this alive".

Read more on:    barack obama  |  mitt romney  |  us  |  us elections 2012

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