Political Animal


January 20, 2012 9:45 AM What retreat looks like

By Steve Benen

About a month ago, Mitt Romney was asked whether he’d release his tax returns. He said, “I doubt it,” adding, “I don’t intend to.”

Eight days later, Romney said he’d “consider” releasing his tax returns, but the disclosure would only come after he’s elected to the White House.

Earlier this week, Romney said he’s “not opposed” to disclosure, “if” there’s been a “tradition.” He added he’ll “keep that open” around “the April time period.”

Last night, Romney said he’ll “probably” release his tax returns. Asked about previous years, he said, “Maybe.”

And that led to a new position this morning on Fox News.

“I’ll release those on April 15.”

For those keeping score at home, that’s five different positions on disclosure in just four weeks.

Also note, when Romney addressed the subject this morning, he said he doesn’t want to “give the Democrats a nice little present of having multiple releases.”

I’m not sure why Republicans should find this reassuring: if Romney’s tax returns include “presents” for Democrats, why should GOP primary voters spend the next three months voting for him?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • estamm on January 20, 2012 9:52 AM:

    In some ways, Newt scares me more than Mittens as an opponent against Obama. Newt is sleazy, but he is smart sleazy. Mittens is dumb sleazy.

  • c u n d gulag on January 20, 2012 9:53 AM:

    Ooh, I wonder what kind of presents their Mormon Daddy is hiding from us, the nasty, DFH's?
    Paying more in fees to the Cayman Islands than in taxes to the IRS.

    And, as for "multiple releases" - I'm not so sure that's not a dig at Newt and his former wives.

    He's had a multiple releases.

    I just wouldn't bet a nickel that any one that he's ever slept with had any multiple "O's."
    Or, one, even...

  • Stooleo on January 20, 2012 10:00 AM:

    Mitt is hiding something, I'm not sure what but he really doesn't want to reveal it.

    Didn't the IRS have an amnesty program that allowed billionaire to pull their money from foreign tax havens without the risk of prosecution? Maybe it has something to do with that? I think the program recently ended.


  • KenS on January 20, 2012 10:01 AM:

    I don't understand the charge of inconsistency here. Mitt's position has always been that he doesn't want to release these returns, but he will if the political liability from not releasing them exceeds the liability from releasing them. He's a model of consistency.

  • Brenna on January 20, 2012 10:03 AM:

    This is gonna haunt him, especially if Newt wins SC.

    What's in those tax returns? I love presents!

  • DAY on January 20, 2012 10:05 AM:

    Romney want us to pick Presidents the way Catholics pick Popes. In a quiet room, with smoke and mirrors. . .

  • walt on January 20, 2012 10:05 AM:

    Romney will sanitize, as much as he can, his current return. It's the previous years, however, he'll run into problems. As a champion of the plutocracy, Romney will run into a major perception problem that propelled OWS and is a stark undercurrent to our current malaise: the rich work the system, and indeed, own it.

    This is a no-win situation for Romney. He knew it was coming and he apparently just prayed it wouldn't damage him. He's still the nominee but he's already damaged goods.

  • chi res on January 20, 2012 10:06 AM:

    Mitt's position has always been that he doesn't want to release these returns, but he will if the political liability from not releasing them exceeds the liability from releasing them.

    Another clear case of: "I'm running for office, for pete's sake!"

  • jonas on January 20, 2012 10:06 AM:

    I've seen this discussed elsewhere, but it's worth mentioning again: is Mitt nervous about everybody seeing all the various sketchy tax shelters he (and most people with nine-figure fortunes) use to pay few or no taxes in many instances? Or is he nervous about the LDS church seeing whether or not he's been a "member in good standing" -- i.e. tithing? This is a big deal in the Mormon church and church leaders do sometimes audit members' 1040s to make sure they're paying what they're supposed to.

    It may also not look good if Mitt *has* been a good Mormon and actually has tithed like he's supposed to. It may remind people that he's given millions over the years to an outfit many regard as a sketchy cult.

  • jcricket on January 20, 2012 10:10 AM:

    By saying that he would be giving Dems 'presents' by releasing his tax returns, isn't he effectively saying that his tax returns reveal that he is everything the Democrats want him to be?

    Which is an elitist wall streeter who offshores enough of his vast wealth to keep from paying taxes. It also probably reveals that the 'probably 15%' he pays in taxes isn't true either. I'm speculating that his effective tax rate is a single digit number.

    After all, it would be irresponsible NOT to speculate!

  • truthbetold on January 20, 2012 10:14 AM:

    Romney also said he is not going to apologize for his wealth. Who is asking for an apology? But then this is how the right operates. Voters would like for Romney to disclose how he became so successful since this is according to him his greatest strength. He said that what he did as a business will equate as to what he will do as a president then show us how that is true. His wealth which has not been fully disclosed is a measure of that success. Voters want disclosure not an apology but the hesitation on his part speaks shame not pride in what he has done.

  • Ralph Kramden on January 20, 2012 10:16 AM:

    The real test is whether he'll release any returns he's ALREADY FILED, not just the one he's making up now (2011) to look good.

    Betcha $10000 he won't.

  • MikeBoyScout on January 20, 2012 10:19 AM:

    Beware of Greeks bearing gifts and all that,
    but it is awfully nice of Mittens to give Democrats 3 more months of drip, drip, drip and weekly dissembling about tax returns.

  • Mitt's Magic Underwear on January 20, 2012 10:37 AM:

    Sorry, he'll release after he wins the nomination, and at a time where no one will pay any attention.

  • burro on January 20, 2012 10:43 AM:

    Mitts x-treme coyness about this says there's stuff in those returns that he deluded even himself about. It's a ticking time bomb now, and whatever he doesn't release is going to be perceived as the place where he's hiding whatever.

    Yesterday, Terry Gross interviewed two authors whose book on Romney just came out. The Romney's and the LDS go back to the very beginning of the whatever you want to call that organization. 10 or 12 years of Mitt's tax returns are very likely worth a book in their own right.

    He's really screwed. Folks down the road will wonder how he ever thought he could get past this point. He had his own father's example as a warning that it would eventually be a requirement, and what standard he would be held to.

  • Old School on January 20, 2012 10:47 AM:

    April 15th is a Sunday this year. Tax Day is actually the 17th.

  • jcricket on January 20, 2012 10:47 AM:

    So, he'll release his tax returns when the R party has no choice but to back him?

    Mighty big of you, Mitt. It's kind of like telling your wife of only a few hours that you have a disease.

  • Marko on January 20, 2012 10:48 AM:

    OOOHH! OHHHH! (waving frantically)

    Yes? You in the back?

    "It's the APRIL SURPRISE!"

  • SKM on January 20, 2012 11:04 AM:

    estamm said Newt is more scary than Romney. LOL!

    They are equally scary. Just look up the name Arthur Zander and Franz Jacobi. This church has a history of a lot of things that you will never know. The church was supposed to have just ordained someone 'labeled' a Nazi, JT Ready in Arizona. Again, you have no clue. Then read the story "Thieve in the Temple, How affinity Fraud Hurts LDS Mormons."

    As far as the tax returns, with Sankaty LTD LLC, a company he is listed as Sole shareholder, Sole employee-CEO, he is listed as 'Mitt Romney.' Not W.M. Romney, or Willard M. Romney, but, Mitt Romney.

  • DRF on January 20, 2012 11:13 AM:

    The press needs to keep the pressure on Romney to release not just his 2011 tax returns but his returns for at least 2 or 3 prior years. If there's anything embarassing in his prior returns,he now has the opportunity to change that for his 2011 return.

  • burro on January 20, 2012 11:21 AM:

    MikeBoyScout @ 10:19 AM:

    ...it is awfully nice of Mittens to give Democrats 3 more months of drip, drip, drip and weekly dissembling about tax returns.

    Newt won't be giving Mitt that luxury. Newt tastes blood, and he has his taxes on the table for all to see. The Marianne threat, that she could end his campaign with a single interview, turned out to be nothing. Newt was an asshole then, he's an asshole now, and a lot of people just like assholes.

    But he's going to hound Mitt with the taxes thing. And Mitt will in turn, try carpet bombing Newt. But as long as the taxes are a mystery, Newt will have the heavier hammer, and he's going to be swinging that baby hard.

    Sheldon Adelson didn't give Newt $5M to sit on his ass. And Newt knows there's more where that came from if he can show results.

    Mitt's magic underwear better be industrial strength, but eventually, he's still going to have to show his taxes. He sure wishes he could ditch those like he ditched those hard drives.

  • SKM on January 20, 2012 11:44 AM:

    Yes. The pressure should be put on Mitt, just like the right-wing birthers and republicans (elected ones even) pressed the issue of the birth certificate, including Mitt's own son making a joke of it.

    As far as tax returns. Does anyone remember that a 'Qatari' group of investors just purchased the private banking wing of a European bank? This was a couple of months ago. I'm willing to bet, quite a few of them, not just Mitt, have some money there - they do seem to be taking a lot of trips to the ME.

  • Crusty the Clown on January 20, 2012 12:21 PM:

    Come on, the Mittster have a problem? All Very Serious People know that life begins at incorporation and that negative tax rates are only for those incorporated with assets totaling over $100 million. The hoi polloi should thank their lucky stars that such a shining beacon of Truth, Justice, and the American Way is willing to interrupt his career as vulture capitalist and job cremator to lead them into a new, fulfilling life of serfdom. If they don't like it, let them eat Hostess Twinkies!! (Oh, wait, did Hostess just file Chapter 11? My bad.)

  • Dee on January 20, 2012 12:22 PM:

    should be a nice April Fools..

  • TY on January 20, 2012 1:19 PM:

    I think the most interesting part was how the audience booed Romney when asked about his taxes. I would have thought Reps. would rail against disclosure such as this, and they would boo the question. Instead, they boo'd Romney.

  • Gretchen on January 20, 2012 1:46 PM:

    Stephen Colbert asked "what's the difference between Mitt Romney and a stature of Mitt Romney? The statue doesn't change positions."

  • MNRD on January 20, 2012 3:37 PM:

    ..."if Romney’s tax returns include “presents” for Democrats, why should GOP primary voters spend the next three months voting for him?"

    Bingo! What Gingrich has managed to do is to find the thing that makes Romney unelectable: Romney's tax returns! Romney was winning the "electability" argument handily, but Newt suddenly found Romney's electability Achilles heel and Romney has buckled. This is what is called a serious game-changer.

    A big part of the game-change is that Newt clears the field by winning the not-Romney Primary. Newt wins the not-Romney primary because Newt found Romney's Achilles heel and Santorum didn't - and because Newt has completed and released his tax returns and Santorum hasn't. Thus, Newt is positioned to be able to defeat Romney on the "electability" front, and Santorum is not.

    If both Newt and Mitt have major "electability" problems, why shouldn't the conservatives go with the candidate who they relate to rather than the candidate who turns them off? If they're going to lose the election because of their nominee's electability problem, why not at least lose with the candidate who speaks their language?

  • Anth on January 22, 2012 5:59 PM:

    The most interesting tax years for Romney will be 2004 and 2008.
    2004 will be interesting because there was a "give away" 5.25% rate on bringing home offshore profits. So that year he could have made out like a bandit.
    2008 will be interesting as there are primarily two ways to make a capital gain that year. One by getting out of the market in the early part of the year. Secondly by shorting the market in the latter part of the year.
    Lets see how he did.