Republican Congressman: Romney Tax Return Issue Not Going Away

North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones, a conservative Republican, has joined those urging the Romney campaign to get the tax return issue behind him:

GOP Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) said Thursday that Mitt Romney’s refusal to release more than two years of tax returns could hurt him in the presidential election.

“I don’t think this will go away,” Jones told The Hill. “And if we’re still talking about this in September, he’s in deep trouble.”

Many Republicans have called on Romneyto release more than two years of tax returns to make the issue go away, including his former rivals Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman. Conservative pundits Bill Kristol and George Will, as well as the editors of the National Review, have also called on Romney to release the returns.

Romney has steadfastly refused to do so.

Jones is right, of course, and I explained why a month ago:

Whatever the reason, though, it strikes me that Romney is making a serious tactical mistake in refusing to release anything more than he’s already released. In addition to feeding speculation of the type that Cassidy and Fallows engage in, it’s yet another thing that the opposition can use to try to through the campaign off message. Regardless of what the cost would be of releasing the returns, it strikes me that it cannot possibly be any worse than the continued drip, drip, drip of the media asking Romney and his surrogates why he isn’t releasing any more returns, or of the Obama Campaign and SuperPAC ads that continue to bring the issue up as well. Tax returns aren’t likely to be the issue that decides this election, but they also aren’t the hill for the Romney campaign to die on. They ought to release the returns, at least seven years just like Obama did in 2008, perhaps even more than that. Questions will come, inevitably, but they cannot possibly any worse than creating the impression that you have something to hide.

There’s some indication that the Romney campaign thinks they’ll be able to reboot and change the direction of this race with their VP pick. Maybe they will, but it’s also just as likely that naming a Vice-President will just mean that there will be one more person in the campaign who the press can ask about Romney’s tax returns. The first question, of course, will be to ask how many years of tax returns the VP pick turned over to Romney’s vetting team.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Economics and Business, Taxes, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. bluepen9uin says:

    Or to ask the question how many years of tax returns did that person release as part of past election cycles?

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Romney has Harry Reid right where he wants him…

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Put me on record as thinking that there’s nothing in his returns that can not be explained away.

    As a political tactic, this is sort of like Gary Hart telling the press that he will have them shot if they follow him around to see if he’s cheating on his wife, and then sneaking out of a yacht to go home to his wife and a happy contented marriage.

  4. Eric says:

    There was a blog I was reading today that made a statement that Romney has an incredible opportunity to destroy Senator Reid’s reputation and political standing, but the fact that he has not released his taxes is questionable.

    Romney has every right to keep his taxes hidden, but I find it very odd the way he is handling this issue. And the problem I find is that this tax return should not be the issue.

  5. legion says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Put me on record as thinking that there’s nothing in his returns that can not be explained away.

    I doubt there’s anything that’s against the law, but there’s also nothing in there that will help him look like he has any understanding of typical Americans’ finances. It continues to be a question of which causes more damage, the steady drumbeat of tax form requests or the egg-on-face that would result in releasing them.

    Additionally, people haven’t really forgotten about Romney’s mysterious $100m IRA, either…

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I believe the chances of the tax returns being released fall somewhere between zero and none. Something in there is so politically toxic it would make Mustard Gas look tame.

    I always try to look at angles other than the conventional wisdom, because in my experience when someone is trying to hide something usually it’s not what you think they’re trying to hide.

    Everybody’s assuming that Romney is trying to hide massive income, or offshore investments, or similar fare. I don’t think so. We all know he’s rich and we all know he invests via offshore vehicles. Granted, Zombieland doesn’t know about it, but then again Zombieland don’t give a shit.

    Ergo I believe the tax returns would show some type of left-wing bent. A 501 contribution to Planned Parenthood or something along those lines. Keep in mind that Romney really isn’t a conservative. In real life he’s in the mold of the Arlen Specter / William Cohen wing of the party, circa early to mid-1990’s. I think the hidden info consists of something that would cause so many (millions of) people on the right to stay home and not vote that Romney could not realistically win the election, almost regardless of the economy.

    That’s my speculation and until proven otherwise I’m sticking to it.

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: I agree and I think it is in the 2009 returns.

  8. MBunge says:

    I know it’s hard to focus on this with a Presidential campaign underway, but isn’t this a massive indictment of the GOP primary electorate and political culture? Put aside the fact that they didn’t care about Romney’s tax returns. How did they not appreciate the ways the Democrats would be able to use the issue as a weapon?


  9. @Ron Beasley:

    I dunno, this whole thing with Romney’s tax returns is starting to remind me of the Birth Certificate. All this completely baseless speculation about there being some horrible secret on the long form that was preventing Obama from releasing it (It turns out his dad is really Malcom X!!!) that just happened to conveniently reenforce the conspiracist’s narrative about the candidate.

  10. James says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Except embedded in the returns issue are substantive questions relating to Mr. Romney’s wealth, privilege and overall tax burden; rather than scurrilous insinuations about his ‘real Americaness’.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    @ Stormy…
    Well…except that Obama suffered no political damage from the birth certificate nonsense.
    The nut-cases in the tri-corn hats with tea bags dangling from them, that bought into Obama as Kenyan Manchurian candidate, were never going to vote for Obama anyway.
    Romney on the other hand is now involved in a knock-down-drag-out with Harry Reid…which is fine…if you are running for Senate.

  12. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’d divide it. Anyone convinced the hidden taxes contain illegalities is probably a nutter. Anyone suspecting that they are merely politically unpalatable probably has a rational guess.

    I mean, if they were politically advantageous do you doubt that they’d be released?

    (I think low or no taxes paid is the simplest explanation. That doesn’t imply illegality either.)

  13. john personna says:

    Oh, “the taxes make Mitt look good, but he doesn’t want to release them anyway” doesn’t seem too rational an analysis.

  14. David M says:

    @john personna: I think that depends how far back you go, I think at some point there were probably some aggressive tax avoidance strategies used. I’d be shocked if the recent ones weren’t simply legal and politically damaging.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    @ David M/JP…
    I think aggressive is the right word. Right on the edge of illegality.
    And I’m betting lower than 13.9%.
    A year or two at zero% is not unlikely.

    The returns were a problem when he ran for Senate and for Governor and during the Primaries. He had to see it coming. He had to have made a judegment that taking all the heat was better than the alternative. The Democrats are right to make him regret that decision. Republicans would do the same…only worse.

  16. Modulo Myself says:

    @john personna:

    I’m not so sure that Romney may not be refusing to release his tax returns because he genuinely feels that it’s nobody’s business. Sure, he’s willing to shoot down all of his previous political positions for a few votes. But this is money we’re talking about: it’s a completely different ballgame.

  17. al-Ameda says:

    It’s as if he’s playing chess and Reid made a move to ‘check’ him, and 72 hours later Romney is still considering his next move. Not real good, really.

  18. Ron Beasley says:

    I’m still betting he took advantage of the amnesty on foreign funds which would show up on his 2009 returns. If 2009 wasn’t a problem he would release a couple more years.

  19. @john personna:

    I mean, if they were politically advantageous do you doubt that they’d be released?

    Well one possibilities is that he can’t release them because he doesn’t have them anymore. You’re only required to keep copies of you returns for seven years. If someone demanded to see my return from 2002, I couldn’t show them because I got rid of it several years ago.

  20. john personna says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Given his dad’s precedent that would be a weird thing to deeply feel, in the face of so much same party criticism.

    @Stormy Dragon:

    If he’d released 7 years he would be in a much stronger position.

  21. john personna says:

    “I’d love to release them, but oops I shredded them all” is very Nixon. 🙂

  22. DRS says:

    If I were a gambler, I’d put down $5 on the tab that says there’s nothing actually illegal, just damned politically embarassing, but that a lot of the resistance is simply Romney being stubborn. He’s dug in his heels before, usually about Mormonism and his activities with his church, and eventually the issue goes away (magic underwear!). But Election Day is getting closer, and his room for running is getting much more constricted.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Tsar, for once, I think you may be on to something.

  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon: What… The IRS doesn’t have them anymore either? Besides, as JP said, release the last 7 years.

    Or we can just take Mitt at his own word:

    “I am not releasing any more returns because that would just give them more ammo.” (or something like that)

    Translation: “There is some bad sh!t in there. Legal, but politically toxic.”

  25. Septimius says:

    I heard a rumor that Dan Rather has obtained copies of Mitt Romney’s tax returns. They were provided by a mysterious woman named Lucy Ramirez. They show that Romney earned a bazillion dollars and has never paid a single dollar in taxes, ever. Also, they were produced using microsoft word.

  26. OzarkHillbily says:

    @Septimius: Ya know? I heard the exact same rumor. Why won’t Mitt debunk them? He has the proof in his hands….

    Uhhhhhhhh…… because the truth will not set him free??????????????????????????


  27. michael reynolds says:

    I think it’s one of three things:

    1) He paid basically no taxes, or close to no taxes.
    2) He made contributions to organizations that will outrage conservatives.
    3) He’s been screwing the LDS church out of its tithe.

    #1 seems most likely.

    #2 seems unlikely because the only reason to have donated to some group like Planned Parenthood would be for political advantage back when he was running for governor of MA, and that information would have been made public.

    As for #3, if his accountant is a Mormon it’s not #3. If his accountant is not a Mormon, it is.

  28. Jen says:

    #2 seems unlikely because the only reason to have donated to some group like Planned Parenthood would be for political advantage back when he was running for governor of MA, and that information would have been made public.

    I disagree (mildly). His personal history with the choice issue was pretty dramatic. His brother-in-law’s younger sister (Ann Keenan) died as a result of an infection from an illegal abortion in 1963. Romney’s father had just been elected governor, and I think that this tragedy probably affected the whole family in a profound way. I can’t remember where I read it, but I believe that Romney’s mother was clear in her support for Planned Parenthood. It’s possible (although admittedly unlikely) that Mitt continued to support the organization while stating he had a change in position.

    I don’t think the only reason he would contribute to Planned Parenthood would be for political advantage. I do think it’s unlikely, but not outside the realm of possibility.

  29. anjin-san says:

    1) He paid basically no taxes, or close to no taxes.

    I will take what’s behind door #1. I don’t think he did anything illegal, he does not seem like the type. But there is almost certainly political kryptonite lurking in his returns. Even Republicans are telling him to release them, take the hit, and move on. What is he afraid of?

    Not buying the “principled stand” line. This guy has no track record of having principles, other than “rich folks have a lot of privileges”…

  30. grumpy realist says:

    Me, I’m going for the aggressive tax avoidance and maybe taking advantage of tax amnesties that were offered.

    You’d sort of think that Romney would realize taking a $70K deduction for a horse wouldn’t come across that well, either.

    I still wonder about Harry Reid, however. Unless he’s able to reveal something else that backs up his story, we’re rapidly getting down to “he-said-she-said” territory, especially now that all the Republicans have come out on the Sunday talk shows to scream at Reid.

  31. James Ziherle says:

    In my admittedly inexpert opinion, there is no friggin’ way that Romney will release his tax returns at this point. If there ever was a time to release his returns, that time was six months ago. Had he done so at that time, however, he probably would have been defeated in the primary. Romney is accustomed to making cost-benefit analyses. He has made the decision that the cost of releasing a decade’s worth of his tax returns is just too high at this point. He’s undoubtedly right. In either case, with the continued insistence of the Democrats coupled with the defensiveness of the Republicans, this issue will not go away anytime soon.