Obama to Romney: Release 5 years of tax returns, and we’ll shut up

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

Looking to keep the pressure on Mitt Romney to release more tax returns, President Barack Obama's campaign offered the Republican a deal on Friday: Release five years of returns, and we'll shut up about this.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina pressed his case in a publicly released letter to his counterpart on Team Romney, Matt Rhoades. Messina said that the request for the tax returns covering 2007-2012 was "surely not unreasonable" but acknowledged the Republican candidate's concerns that more disclosures will merely lead to more requests for disclosure from Team Obama.

"So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: 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," Messina wrote.

Rhoades responded quickly and in identical fashion, not explicitly rejecting the proposal but mockingly suggesting that Romney's taxes were the Obama campaign's "core issue."

"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," Rhoades wrote.

The back and forth came a day after Romney told reporters he had never paid less than 13 percent in taxes over the past decade, a comment that prompted the Obama campaign to insist: "Prove it."

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The Obama aide used the letter—something of a time-honored political campaign stunt, errr, "tactic"—to knock Romney around on the issue of his personal finances. The incumbent has sought to counter criticisms of his handling of the sputtering economy by vowing to fight for the middle class while painting the challenger as the champion of the rich.

"A five year release would appropriately span all the years that he has been a candidate for President," Messina said (translation: "You've been running for president for five years").  "It would also help answer outstanding questions raised by the one return he has released to date, such as the range in the effective rates paid, the foreign accounts maintained, the foreign investments made, and the types of tax shelters used," Messina said (translation: "Look at these sketchy personal finances").

"I repeat, the Governor and his campaign can expect in return that we will refrain from questioning whether he has released enough or pressing for more," Messina said.