US President Barack Obama’s campaign offered Republican challenger Mitt Romney a deal: If he releases five years of tax returns, the Obama team will not criticize him for not releasing any more. The Romney team, swiftly rejected the offer.
The Obama campaign has made Romney’s taxes a focus of its attack strategy as economic issues — and the growing gap in the US between rich and poor — dominate a tight race toward the November election.
Releasing several years of tax returns has become a standard in recent presidential elections, but Romney, a multimillionaire former CEO, has said his critics would distort the tax information and use it against him.
“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,” Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades said.
Campaign manager Jim Messina made the offer to Rhoades in a letter on Friday. Messina said he is taking the step because Romney “apparently fears the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide.”
Led by Obama, the Democrats are also going after Romney for seeking to protect tax cuts for the wealthy, with hopes of luring pivotal support from middle-class voters. Romney released his 2010 taxes and plans to release his returns for last year. Messina said he wants Romney to provide three more years of returns.
Obama’s campaign has questioned whether there are years when Romney paid no taxes. Romney said on Thursday he has paid at least 13 percent of his income in taxes every year for the past decade.
On average, middle-income families, those making from US$50,000 to US$75,000 a year, pay 12.8 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.
In 2010 and last year, Romney made about US$21 million a year.
Romney is able to keep his tax rate low because most of his income is from investments, which are generally taxed at a lower rate than wages. That type of legal tax figuring is something Obama has proposed changing.
Romney’s stance is markedly different from that of his father, George Romney, who released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in 1968.
Romney has said he is following the example of Republican Senator John McCain, who released two years’ worth of returns in 2008 when running against Obama.
Separately, an independent Democratic group supporting Obama released a new advertisement on Friday arguing that Romney would only pay 1 percent in taxes under a budget plan proposed by his new running mate, Representative Paul Ryan. The advert’s tag line says: “Romney and Ryan. If they win, the middle class loses.”