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Topic: Romney tax returns

Reid Refuses to Release Tax Returns

If Sen. Harry Reid is going to demand full tax return transparency from Mitt Romney, he should at the very least hold himself to the same standards. Unless of course he has some horrible, scandalous financial secrets to obscure…

Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told Politico last week that the majority leader will not release his tax returns, writing: “He’s not running for president. … He has of course released more than 30 years of detailed [personal finance disclosures]. There is exponentially more information available to the public about Sen. Reid’s financial life than there is about Mitt Romney’s.”

Conservatives have begun accusing Reid of hypocrisy for his attacks on Romney. And the Las Vegas Review-Journal — in a somewhat different context — on Monday resurrected a 1974 statement in which Reid said: “Any man or woman who will not be completely candid about his or her finances does not deserve to be in public office.”

Asked about that statement at a news conference Monday in Nevada, Reid responded: “In 1974, I wasn’t in Congress.”

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If Sen. Harry Reid is going to demand full tax return transparency from Mitt Romney, he should at the very least hold himself to the same standards. Unless of course he has some horrible, scandalous financial secrets to obscure…

Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told Politico last week that the majority leader will not release his tax returns, writing: “He’s not running for president. … He has of course released more than 30 years of detailed [personal finance disclosures]. There is exponentially more information available to the public about Sen. Reid’s financial life than there is about Mitt Romney’s.”

Conservatives have begun accusing Reid of hypocrisy for his attacks on Romney. And the Las Vegas Review-Journal — in a somewhat different context — on Monday resurrected a 1974 statement in which Reid said: “Any man or woman who will not be completely candid about his or her finances does not deserve to be in public office.”

Asked about that statement at a news conference Monday in Nevada, Reid responded: “In 1974, I wasn’t in Congress.”

Note that the congressional financial disclosure forms Reid has filled out provide different information than tax returns, so they’re hardly a substitute. If he wants the questions to stop, he’s going to have to cough up the actual documents.

Is Reid just stringing the press along here so he’ll have more leverage when he finally does release the information, or is he really so dense that he went ahead with this anti-Romney attack, knowing all along he wouldn’t be willing to release his own tax returns if asked? I’m tempted to guess the former, but his comment about not being in Congress when he called for full financial disclosure just seems too unbelievably awful to have been planned in advance. He’s basically saying his personal transparency ethics went out the window once he was handed political power. Poor 1974-Reid must be so embarrassed by 2012-Reid.

On a related note, the mainstream media seems to be turning against the Senate majority leader. Washington Post’s fact-checker gave his accusations against Romney “Four Pinocchios” this morning, following up on Politifact’s “Pants on Fire” rating yesterday.

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Politifact Backs Romney on Tax Issue

Fact-checking website Politifact — which has had a mixed record refereeing the election so far — gave Sen. Harry Reid a “pants-on-fire” rating for his charge that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years.

In an Internal Revenue Service study of nearly 4 million 2009 tax returns of filers reporting more than $200,000 in adjusted gross income, 20,752 of these taxpayers — or just 0.529 percent — had no U.S. income tax liability. About half of those did have income tax liability in other countries. …

To gauge tax patterns for even higher-income earners, the best we can do is to look at another IRS study detailing the taxes paid by the top 400 earners in the nation in 2008. To make this list, you would have to have earned roughly $109 million that year. Among those 400 top taxpayers, 30 — or 7.5 percent — had an effective tax rate of between 0 and 10 percent. Given how the statistics are calculated, it’s impossible to know how many paid no taxes, but it’s safe to assume it’s well below 7.5 percent.

Neither study directly addresses Romney’s situation — he falls somewhere in the middle of the two studies — but the data does show that for earners both below and above him, it’s unlikely they paid zero taxes for one year, and it’s even more far-fetched to think they did so for 10 years.

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Fact-checking website Politifact — which has had a mixed record refereeing the election so far — gave Sen. Harry Reid a “pants-on-fire” rating for his charge that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years.

In an Internal Revenue Service study of nearly 4 million 2009 tax returns of filers reporting more than $200,000 in adjusted gross income, 20,752 of these taxpayers — or just 0.529 percent — had no U.S. income tax liability. About half of those did have income tax liability in other countries. …

To gauge tax patterns for even higher-income earners, the best we can do is to look at another IRS study detailing the taxes paid by the top 400 earners in the nation in 2008. To make this list, you would have to have earned roughly $109 million that year. Among those 400 top taxpayers, 30 — or 7.5 percent — had an effective tax rate of between 0 and 10 percent. Given how the statistics are calculated, it’s impossible to know how many paid no taxes, but it’s safe to assume it’s well below 7.5 percent.

Neither study directly addresses Romney’s situation — he falls somewhere in the middle of the two studies — but the data does show that for earners both below and above him, it’s unlikely they paid zero taxes for one year, and it’s even more far-fetched to think they did so for 10 years.

Politifact also quoted tax experts and economists who agree that it’s highly unlikely Romney avoided paying taxes for 10 years. Phil Klein points out that it’s impossible to know for sure without actually seeing Romney’s tax returns — which is precisely what makes Reid’s accusations so slimy — but this is the closest Romney is going to get to debunking the charges without coughing up the papers.

The Romney campaign can now say Reid’s accusations were debunked by fact-checkers, but it’s not going to be enough to stop the smears.

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Dems Back Reid Attacks on Romney’s Taxes

Democrats are starting to throw their support behind Sen. Harry Reid’s completely unsourced attacks on Mitt Romney’s tax returns. While the Obama campaign hasn’t endorsed Reid’s comments explicitly, it’s been using them as an opening to smack Romney for his failure to release more than two years of his tax information. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is defending Reid’s credibility, calling his allegations “a fact”:

“Harry Reid made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact,” Pelosi told The Huffington Post in a Sunday interview. “Whether he did or not can easily be disposed of: Mitt Romney can release his tax returns and show whether he paid taxes.”

Both Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus came out swinging against Reid on Sunday over his claims about Romney potentially not paying taxes. Asked to respond to Priebus calling Reid “a dirty liar” over the situation, Pelosi initially responded, “Who?” She went on to say that Priebus doesn’t know what he’s talking about since he wasn’t part of Reid’s conversations.

“Well he doesn’t know that,” Pelosi said. “Harry Reid is a person who is, as we know, A, is a fighter, B, he wouldn’t say this unless it was true that somebody told him that.”

Pelosi’s comments will at least help extend the news life of this story, giving the Obama campaign more time to hammer Romney to release his returns. But are Democrats also taking a risk with this attack?

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Democrats are starting to throw their support behind Sen. Harry Reid’s completely unsourced attacks on Mitt Romney’s tax returns. While the Obama campaign hasn’t endorsed Reid’s comments explicitly, it’s been using them as an opening to smack Romney for his failure to release more than two years of his tax information. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is defending Reid’s credibility, calling his allegations “a fact”:

“Harry Reid made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact,” Pelosi told The Huffington Post in a Sunday interview. “Whether he did or not can easily be disposed of: Mitt Romney can release his tax returns and show whether he paid taxes.”

Both Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus came out swinging against Reid on Sunday over his claims about Romney potentially not paying taxes. Asked to respond to Priebus calling Reid “a dirty liar” over the situation, Pelosi initially responded, “Who?” She went on to say that Priebus doesn’t know what he’s talking about since he wasn’t part of Reid’s conversations.

“Well he doesn’t know that,” Pelosi said. “Harry Reid is a person who is, as we know, A, is a fighter, B, he wouldn’t say this unless it was true that somebody told him that.”

Pelosi’s comments will at least help extend the news life of this story, giving the Obama campaign more time to hammer Romney to release his returns. But are Democrats also taking a risk with this attack?

Larry Sabato argues they are in USA Today:

Team Obama’s tactic isn’t without risk, said Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia. “Suppose Romney reverses course and releases the extra tax returns, and they show that he did pay substantial taxes,” Sabato said. “Both Reid and Obama would have to apologize, I would think.”

Sabato, however, concludes that the Obama campaign has made the calculation that Romney, who became wealthy in his years in private equity, won’t release more returns. “Every new complicated return gives Democrats and the media lots of openings for negative charges and stories,” he said.

Obama or Reid apologize for a slanderous statement about Romney? Don’t hold your breath. Democrats are tacitly supporting Reid’s comments because they don’t see a downside here. Even if Romney releases his tax returns and proves Reid’s baseless claims false, the story won’t be about Reid — it’ll be about whatever is in Romney’s returns. And if Romney’s previous tax documents are any indication, Democrats will have a ton of fresh attack fodder that has nothing to do with tax dodging. His income and his investment information will probably be more than enough to keep the DNC busy for a few weeks.

On the other hand, if Romney doesn’t release his returns — the most likely scenario at this point — then Democrats will have a few weeks to slime his reputation with baseless claims about tax fraud. It’s a win-win for them.

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Dems to Turn Obama Campaign Talking Points into Legislation

Democrats in Congress frustrated by President Obama’s repeated refusal to release all of his papers from his days in the Illinois state senate and his college transcripts are introducing legislation that would force the president to release his political records and Columbia transcripts–just in case he misrepresented his back story to enable his transfer there.

Just kidding! Democrats are introducing legislation to force Mitt Romney to release his tax returns. Running out of retired baseball players to prosecute and looking for some other creative ways to cynically use their taxpayer-funded salaries to waste everyone’s time and money on a political stunt designed to treat the Congress as if it were a liberal super-PAC, Democrats have seized on the issue of Romney’s tax returns as a nifty way to legislate campaign ads from the Senate floor. Senators Carl Levin and Dick Durbin can’t even pretend that this is not what they’re doing, even though the legislation would obviously force all candidates to comply:

Sen. Carl Levin told reporters that the Senate proposal would shed new light on the use of shell corporations based overseas to help U.S. companies and individuals avoid U.S. taxes. But Durbin confirmed the timing of the proposal is designed to highlight Democratic complaints with Romney’s investments.

“Clearly, I think the American people are entitled to more,” Durbin said, of the two years of tax returns Romney has so far said he will release. “I also think he has an obligation to explain why he and his family decided that offshore tax havens are the right place to park their money and their wealth. Those are legitimate questions.”

The two suggested they would move the item as an amendment to some other larger bill in coming weeks, which could force a Senate floor debate.

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Democrats in Congress frustrated by President Obama’s repeated refusal to release all of his papers from his days in the Illinois state senate and his college transcripts are introducing legislation that would force the president to release his political records and Columbia transcripts–just in case he misrepresented his back story to enable his transfer there.

Just kidding! Democrats are introducing legislation to force Mitt Romney to release his tax returns. Running out of retired baseball players to prosecute and looking for some other creative ways to cynically use their taxpayer-funded salaries to waste everyone’s time and money on a political stunt designed to treat the Congress as if it were a liberal super-PAC, Democrats have seized on the issue of Romney’s tax returns as a nifty way to legislate campaign ads from the Senate floor. Senators Carl Levin and Dick Durbin can’t even pretend that this is not what they’re doing, even though the legislation would obviously force all candidates to comply:

Sen. Carl Levin told reporters that the Senate proposal would shed new light on the use of shell corporations based overseas to help U.S. companies and individuals avoid U.S. taxes. But Durbin confirmed the timing of the proposal is designed to highlight Democratic complaints with Romney’s investments.

“Clearly, I think the American people are entitled to more,” Durbin said, of the two years of tax returns Romney has so far said he will release. “I also think he has an obligation to explain why he and his family decided that offshore tax havens are the right place to park their money and their wealth. Those are legitimate questions.”

The two suggested they would move the item as an amendment to some other larger bill in coming weeks, which could force a Senate floor debate.

I, for one, agree that the American people are entitled to more. I’d start with a budget–something Senate Democrats steadfastly refuse to do. GOP House Speaker John Boehner also thinks the American people deserve more: “The American people are asking, where are the jobs? They’re not asking where in the hell the tax returns are,” he told the Washington Post.

Well that may be, but what could Durbin and Levin possibly care what Americans are asking for? It’s silly season, after all–a time that seems strangely permanent in Harry Reid’s Senate. Besides, it’s just congressional legislation designed with a specific individual political opponent of Durbin and Levin’s in mind. It’s not like there’s any way such a standard could be abused. What could possibly go wrong?

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The Romney Tax Distraction

There may be something obnoxious about the way candidates for high office are supposed to do a strip-tease in front of the media. But if Mitt Romney’s advisers aren’t telling him it’s time to release more tax returns, he needs new advisers. Bill Kristol was the latest conservative to say what everybody knows is common sense when he called the refusal to release more returns “crazy” on Fox News yesterday. He’s right, and the longer the Republican candidate ignores such advice the less it looks like he’s got a handle on what it takes to get elected president. It’s true that after being pounded on the question in the primaries, he released his 2010 return and an estimate about his 2011 form. But that isn’t enough, and he knows it.

The Romney campaign has been operating fairly smoothly since the primaries ended with only occasional hiccups such as his zigzags about whether ObamaCare was a tax. But by digging in their heels on this point, they are showing they are not as light on their feet as they should be. The tax return story may be a deliberate attempt by the left to distract the country from a bad economy, but it is also about transparency, something every presidential candidate must demonstrate in this day and age. Like it or not, a presidential candidate must reveal all of his financial data or doom himself to be the focus of conspiracy theories. If Romney wants to counter the Obama campaign’s vicious attacks on his record, he needs to show that he has nothing to hide. Once he does that, he can return to making substantive points about the president’s philosophical commitment to big government and against economic freedom. In refusing to give in to political fashion, he is not merely making a tactical blunder. Doing so also lends credence to the Democratic narrative seeking to portray him as a heartless plutocrat.

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There may be something obnoxious about the way candidates for high office are supposed to do a strip-tease in front of the media. But if Mitt Romney’s advisers aren’t telling him it’s time to release more tax returns, he needs new advisers. Bill Kristol was the latest conservative to say what everybody knows is common sense when he called the refusal to release more returns “crazy” on Fox News yesterday. He’s right, and the longer the Republican candidate ignores such advice the less it looks like he’s got a handle on what it takes to get elected president. It’s true that after being pounded on the question in the primaries, he released his 2010 return and an estimate about his 2011 form. But that isn’t enough, and he knows it.

The Romney campaign has been operating fairly smoothly since the primaries ended with only occasional hiccups such as his zigzags about whether ObamaCare was a tax. But by digging in their heels on this point, they are showing they are not as light on their feet as they should be. The tax return story may be a deliberate attempt by the left to distract the country from a bad economy, but it is also about transparency, something every presidential candidate must demonstrate in this day and age. Like it or not, a presidential candidate must reveal all of his financial data or doom himself to be the focus of conspiracy theories. If Romney wants to counter the Obama campaign’s vicious attacks on his record, he needs to show that he has nothing to hide. Once he does that, he can return to making substantive points about the president’s philosophical commitment to big government and against economic freedom. In refusing to give in to political fashion, he is not merely making a tactical blunder. Doing so also lends credence to the Democratic narrative seeking to portray him as a heartless plutocrat.

Romney is very wealthy, and his returns from previous years probably contain information about all sorts of investments that will be mined by Democratic opposition researchers and their counterparts in the mainstream liberal press for items that will embarrass him. That won’t be pleasant. but it’s doubtful there is anything in there that would change many minds about the election. Some (conservatives) will admire him for his wealth and others (liberals) will despise him for it. Most will not care one way or the other. But by stalling, he gives Democrats a stick with which to beat him and feeds the faux controversies about his leaving Bain Capital and outsourcing.

Yet the main conclusion to be drawn from all of this is not the substance of this minor issue but what it tells us about Romney and his campaign staff. If they are so out of touch with reality that they think they can stall on this issue indefinitely without it hurting them, they aren’t as smart as they think they are. What’s more, it shows they are capable of making even worse mistakes in the coming months, a prospect that will encourage their Democratic counterparts. A bad economy and a weak incumbent give Romney a good chance to win in November. But if he thinks he is above petty concerns such as releasing his tax returns, that shows a degree of detachment and arrogance that bodes poorly for the GOP’s chances.

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