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.”
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.
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?
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.
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.