White House Won’t Back Harry Reid’s Claims On Romney

The White House isn’t letting itself get drawn into the controversy surrounding the allegations that Harry Reid is making regarding Mitt Romney’s taxes:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today deflected questions about whether the White House would back Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s allegations about Mitt Romney’s tax obligations.

Speaking to reporters, Carney refused to answer questions about the Nevada Democrat’s repeated contention that an unnamed source connected to Bain Capital told the Majority Leader that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee has not paid taxes in 10 years. Reid has refused to reveal his source and his claim is unsubstantiated, but he has said Romney can disprove his allegations by releasing multiple years of tax returns.

“I’m not aware of the White House speaking to Sen. Reid about this issue,” Carney said. “You all probably know Sen. Reid well, and you know he speaks for himself.”

Pressed if the White House believed in the accuracy of the information from Reid’s alleged source, Carney deferred to Reid, noting that he has a long track record of not taking orders from others.

“I would refer you to Sen. Reid.” Carney said. “Only Sen. Reid knows his source.”

Of course, the White House doesn’t need to sign on with Reid here. They can just continue letting him make his baseless and unsupported allegations and reap the benefits without getting their own hands bloody. Whether there really coordination between Reid and the campaign I don’t know, but I sure as heck wouldn’t be surprised if there was.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Politicians, Quick Takes, 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 for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. Of course, the White House doesn’t need to sign on with Reid here. They can just continue letting him make his baseless and unsupported allegations and reap the benefits without getting their own hands bloody.

    I have no problem with you saying Reid’s charges are unsupported. But again, when you say they are baseless you are playing exactly the same game, arguing from a secret and unsupported claim that there is no Bain insider and etc.

    Do you have a contact in Reid’s office?

    If you don’t like what Harry did, it should be enough to describe it straight up. He claims an informant. He claims the informant told him Mitt paid no tax for 10 years. He won’t share his source nor confirm his claim by other means.

  2. Reid said it was a Bain “investor” there is no plausible reason why an investor would have access to the personal tax information of a managing partner, and no plausible reason why other partners or employees would have access to that information either.

    Therefore, until Reid makes his source public there’s no reason to believe him either

  3. @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m fine with that comment. You’ve said what Reid says and what you find plausible.

    You know the rhetoric has gone overboard when people called Reid a liar, something that requires inside knowledge.

    A stronger and more rational answer would have been “I don’t need to answer gossip.”

  4. Arm The Homeless says:

    Doug, 5 sentences? When did you start taking blogging pointers from Atrios?

    It seems as though your ‘give-o-shite’ meter is about pegged-out. That’s great. This means that by the time this question of taxes draws out beyond the convention, everyone else in the media will be over the audacity of Reid’s accusations, and will still be asking Gov. Romney why he is afraid of what’s in his returns.

  5. I guess this is the other side of the coin:

    Washington (CNN) — Republican sources say they’re in a Catch-22 situation on how to reply to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s claims that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney went 10 years without paying taxes.

    They understand that they’re taking Reid’s bait and that responding to his unsubstantiated claims against Romney to keeps alive the issue of Romney’s refusing to release his tax returns.

    Still, these GOP sources say they feel that if they do not respond to such a serious charge from such a high-ranking Democrat, it will look like a tacit admission Reid is right.

    I guess the weird thing there is that they see this as “such a serious charge.”

    I mean, it’s our tax system.

  6. Arm The Homeless says:

    @john personna: What I don’t get is that half of the GOP base claims that they WANT someone who is so versed in taxes that they patriotically pay the least possible within the law.

    Does anyone think that America is ready to cheer a really, really rich guy for skirting taxes liabilities? Especially since many voters in swing state are experiencing service reductions, along with middle-class public sector job positions, while waiting for the next shoe to drop? I don’t think we are quite that apathetic yet. YMMV

  7. @Arm The Homeless:

    I guess while we all want to lower our taxes by the rules, we aren’t too comfortable with “loop holes.” Maybe we aren’t too comfortable with people who would cross a line we would not cross.

  8. george says:

    @john personna:

    I have no problem with you saying Reid’s charges are unsupported. But again, when you say they are baseless you are playing exactly the same game, arguing from a secret and unsupported claim that there is no Bain insider and etc.

    Actually no, the person making a claim has to prove it. In this case, its Reid. Its the same principle as if I’d said that I’d discovered a new force (we’ll call it “Georgity”). Presuming I provided no supporting evidence, you’d be correct to say my claim is baseless – and would be correct until I provided evidence.

    I have to admit I find the Romney tax form issue amusingly similar to the requests for Obama to release his birth certificate (which he eventually did, though of course the birthers aren’t satisfied with that).

  9. @george:

    I didn’t say Reid had proven anything, even to me.

  10. @george:

    Maybe it is the difference between “hearsay” and “perjury.”

    Harry hears a thing, and repeats it, knowing that he has already agreed to protect his source. He knows he can’t prove it any other way, but decides to go for it.

    Meanwhile, Reid chief of staff David Krone insisted Monday, again, that he knows who Reid’s source is — and that the source is credible.

    “I know who this person is, and if I thought this person was not credible, I would say something to Sen. Reid. I would try to shut it down. This person is credible,” Krone said.

    “This person has asked Reid to protect the confidentiality of this person, but it’s real,” he continued. “This person told him this. This person said it to Sen. Reid.”

    That’s from the same link above.

    When people call Harry a “dirty liar” they are accusing perjury, rather than rejecting hearsay.

  11. Hey, do you suppose that people like James, Doug, and the Republicans know that they can’t really make the “perjury” charge, but go for it anyway, because it is “stronger” than hearsay?

    In a game of dirty politics you respond to hearsay by accusing perjury, sure.

  12. Arm The Homeless says:

    @george:

    Try this: “I have found ‘Georgity’ and all I need is for my associate to release the data so that we can all bask in my awesomeness. I have been told by his friends that he doesn’t know if he wants to release the data because it might affect other obligations he has to other study associates’ work still in progress. But let me tell you, this ‘Georgity’, this is groundbreaking!”

  13. LaMont says:

    @george:

    One’s interpretation of baseless can be and often is very much related to the credibility of all parties. If I accused you of stealing my claim would be baseless if you did not have a past history of thievery or I demonstrated a history of lying. If I made the same claim without the history of lying or you have a history of stealing then my claim would not appear to be completely baseless. In politics credibility is everything.

    Now I ask you – Is it far fetched to believe that Romney did not pay any taxes in ten years? No so much when thousands of millionaires take advantage of tax loop holes. And from the little information I could gather, It appears that Reid never played politics to the point of misrepresenting (or lying about) anything in the past. Now add the fact that Romney has made the calculated decision to not show more tax returns from a cost/benefit perspective. Suddenly Reid’s accusations do not seem all the baseless.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    Remember back in 2005, when Reid succeeded Tom Daschle as the Senate Minority Leader?

    The GOP vilified Tom Daschle, and Senator Bill Frist, went up to ND to campaign against Daschle and for Thune. Daschle’s defeat was then viewed as a referendum on the obstructionist strategy of Senate Democrats toward then President Bush.

    Back then, Republicans actually looked forward to dealing with Senator Reid because they thought he was docile and would be an easy mark for them to roll and cut deals with.

    The GOP should admire Reid now, he could be one of them.

  15. rudderpedals says:

    Active (general or managing) partners potentially share personal liability. Tax return exchange is not only plausible, it’s due diligence.

  16. mantis says:

    @john personna:

    I guess the weird thing there is that they see this as “such a serious charge.”

    I mean, it’s our tax system.

    Yeah, but they don’t really want to highlight the fact that the game is rigged.

    Anyway, there are folks in Washington who have seen Romney’s taxes. Have John McCain or Steve Schmidt called Reid a liar yet? They are in a position to know.

  17. sam says:

    Yeah, well, my guess is that Joe and Jane Average Voter are going: “Geez, 10 years. That’s pretty over the top. Now 3-4 years — I can believe that.”

  18. grumpy realist says:

    This is why I’m confused. It’s gotten into a slanging ding-dong match between Reid and Teh Usual Suspects, and that’s where it’s going to stay.

    You’d sort of think that Reid would have played out the sequence of steps a little bit more. He’s got to ramp up the pressure. Reveal the name of the individual, give more data, or something. Otherwise the next shiny object floating along will distract the school of fish called political reporters and the tax-issue will be thought of as having been investigated and dropped.

    Amazing in the US how if you just keep saying “no” you can get the investigators to go away. It’s only the little people that have to worry about tax returns.

  19. grumpy realist says:

    Oh, and did anyone read the steaming load of crap that Rubin dumped in the Washington Post today?

    She might as well tattoo on her forehead: “I’m a propagandist hack for Mitt Romney and proud of it!”

  20. Herb says:

    @george:

    “Actually no, the person making a claim has to prove it.”

    Proof? Here’s “proof” that Reid is a liar: “there is no plausible reason why an investor would have access to the personal tax information of a managing partner, and no plausible reason why other partners or employees would have access to that information either.”

    Case closed. Who needs proof when you have logic? Oh wait……

    Bottom line is that one can view this issue as a question of Harry Reid’s honesty, which is a legitimate if myopic point of view, or one can view this as a question of Romney’s fitness for office. Now it may really feel icky, if one thinks Reid is a louse, to view it on those terms, but since Mitt Romney is running for president, it’s entirely appropriate to do so.

    Now maybe Romney did pay some taxes over the last ten years or maybe he didn’t. His reluctance to be completely transparent is a legitimate issue that his political opponents (Reid) are exploiting.

    To make this about Reid’s honesty is to miss the point entirely. Maybe you should ask “cui bono?” And if the answer is: The guy running for president who won’t release his tax returns, you might want to think twice about digging in your heels on the “Reid is a liar” thing.

    Sure….Reid may be a liar. But Romney is still a terrible candidate.

  21. David M says:

    It’s pretty simple really. Romney has the evidence to disprove the claim but is choosing not to make it public, even though releasing the returns is the normal thing to do. Seems to be pretty obvious the tax returns are toxic, probably at least partly due to paying no income taxes some years.

  22. george says:

    @john personna:

    Maybe it is the difference between “hearsay” and “perjury.”

    Harry hears a thing, and repeats it, knowing that he has already agreed to protect his source. He knows he can’t prove it any other way, but decides to go for it.

    That’s an interesting thought, it hadn’t occurred to me. But unless there’s some chance for future revelation (ie eventually the source will allow to be revealed), it still comes down to hearsay, because its hearsay that he has such a source (ie the only evidence we have for it is Reid and Krone). And its potentially worse than that, because the source would themselves be passing on hearsay unless they worked on Romney’s taxes (either as an accountant for Romney, or for the IRS).

    So the difference between perjury and hearsay is temporarily valid, depending upon whether there’s any possibility for confirmation. A theory which can never be proven (or disproven) is, in fact, considered baseless in science (or perhaps applied math, like String theory currently is).

    @Arm The Homeless:

    Try this: “I have found ‘Georgity’ and all I need is for my associate to release the data so that we can all bask in my awesomeness. I have been told by his friends that he doesn’t know if he wants to release the data because it might affect other obligations he has to other study associates’ work still in progress. But let me tell you, this ‘Georgity’, this is groundbreaking!”

    Unfortunately, I doubt you could such a claim published in any peer reviewed physics journal – and the comment in the rejection (if they even bothered to send a comment) would be that until the associate releases, you have no evidence, and so there’s no basis to accept the existence of Geority.

    I should point out that I’m not defending Romney not releasing his tax forms; like Obama releasing his birth certificate, it seems like a fairly reasonable thing to do. I just don’t think claiming an inside source who cannot be named is particularly meaningful – its indistinguishable from just making something up, as anyone who has kids will know (ie a friend who can’t be named broke the window).

  23. mantis says:

    @george:

    And its potentially worse than that, because the source would themselves be passing on hearsay unless they worked on Romney’s taxes (either as an accountant for Romney, or for the IRS).

    You don’t have to work on someone’s taxes to be familiar with them. I know how much my brother pays in taxes, and I didn’t work on them. I’ve seen his returns.

    A theory which can never be proven (or disproven) is, in fact, considered baseless in science

    Nonsense.

    Scientific theories aren’t proven. Proofs are for mathematicians. Falsifiability is essential, but a lack thereof does not make a scientific hypothesis “baseless.”

  24. george says:

    @mantis:

    Nonsense.

    Scientific theories aren’t proven. Proofs are for mathematicians. Falsifiability is essential, but a lack thereof does not make a scientific hypothesis “baseless.”

    Okay, poor choice of words (though you’ll find that generally in science theories are collequally spoken of as being proven, even though every scientist knows that that proof is limited to formal systems such as mathematics).

    So I’ll restate it this way: a theory which is presented without any evidence (ie just on the researchers say so, as in “I think there’s a new force Georgity”) is considered baseless in science. Adding that one of my associates agrees with me, though he or she also cannot release any evidence, doesn’t strengthen the argument.

    If it didn’t work this way, Nature, Science, and every other scientific journal would be 99% hypothesis and 1% evidence, because its much easier to make a claim than it is to provide evidence for it.

  25. george says:

    And actually, lack of falsifiability is generally considered fatal to a hypothesis, unless there is reasonable hope that such falsifiability will become available in the future (String theory being a prime example – and even there, you’ll find many physicists will say its applied math rather than physics because there is no way to test it at this point (or perhaps for a century or two to come).

    Bertrand Russell’s teapot in space is an example of the argument, though it was aimed at theology rather than politics.

  26. Loviatar says:

    @mantis:

    Anyway, there are folks in Washington who have seen Romney’s taxes. Have John McCain or Steve Schmidt called Reid a liar yet?They are in a position to know.

    THIS, THIS, THIS

    Next time Doug or any Republican calls Harry Reid a liar, just ask them, has John McCain called Harry Reid a liar?

  27. al-Ameda says:

    “I’m not aware of the White House speaking to Sen. Reid about this issue,” Carney said. “You all probably know Sen. Reid well, and you know he speaks for himself.”
    Pressed if the White House believed in the accuracy of the information from Reid’s alleged source, Carney deferred to Reid, noting that he has a long track record of not taking orders from others.
    “I would refer you to Sen. Reid.” Carney said. “Only Sen. Reid knows his source.”

    The article didn’t indicate whether Carney was smiling or laughing as he said that. It’s perfect, Carney and the White House can sit back and let Romney’s surrogates call Reid a liar, all the while Romney refuses to let the public see the tax returns that John McCain had access to.

  28. Stonetools says:

    @george:

    Carl Sagan:

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There is no evidence that Harry Reid’s claim is true, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
    Another issue is the best evidence rule. Who has the the best evidence as to the truth of Reid’s claim? In scientific terms, how can Harry Reid’s hypothesis best be falsified?

  29. george says:

    @Stonetools:

    Carl Sagan:

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There is no evidence that Harry Reid’s claim is true, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
    Another issue is the best evidence rule. Who has the the best evidence as to the truth of Reid’s claim? In scientific terms, how can Harry Reid’s hypothesis best be falsified?

    In fact, even in mathematics its known that there are true statements that cannot be proven (Goedel’s therom) – no one is stating that an unsupported claim is necessarily false, just that its unsupported and so has no basis to be accepted. Consider Russell’s teapot in orbit around the sun (say between earth and Mars). There’s no evidence that it’s not there, so it might well be. However, I suspect if I were to tell you that it was there, wouldn’t you say you’d want evidence of it? That is, is your inability to prove it doesn’t exist mean that you have to believe it exists? There are an infinite number of claims which can be made which can’t be falsified. Do we have to conclude they are true?

    The only way I can think of to disprove Reid’s hypothesis (which is that he spoke with someone from Bain who knows that Romney paid no taxes) is to talk to everyone who worked with Romney and ask them if they’re the person Reid spoke of, and that they told Reid they knew Romney paid no taxes. And even then, there’s the possibility of lying (ie someone might have spoken with Reid, but would deny it under questioning).

    Note that this is different than the question of whether Romney paid taxes – Reid’s claim is that he spoke with someone with that knowledge, not that he has that knowledge himself. In fact, even if Romney released his taxes and it turns out he paid some federal income tax (he certainly paid other taxes, just as most of the 48% who some right wingers claim pay no taxes pay other taxes), that wouldn’t disprove Reid’s hypothesis – it might just mean that the person Reid talked to was mistaken or lying, not that Reid was wrong about speaking with that person.

    Look, I think its quite likely that Romney didn’t pay taxes, just as I never believed Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii. But I think the practice of making unsupported accusations and then demanding the accused to provide evidence is wrong. It works of course, McCarthy showed that. But its still wrong.

    And I don’t even think its particularly political. Most right wing sites seem to think Romney should release his taxes. Whether he paid taxes or not wouldn’t affect my vote (he’s going to run us into a huge deficit with military spending and possibly a war with Iran, and there’s no way I could vote for that, whether he paid taxes or not). Like birtherism, its a side issue distracting from the real issues in the election.