Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The 2008 origin to Mitt's Tax Return Problem

 IRS Form 1040

The New York Times has an article in today's paper discussing the VP vetting process underway at Camp Romney.  The most interesting claim in the article isn't about the seemingly thorough effort by Romney's campaign to avoid a VP fiasco like the one that bedeviled John McCain.  The most interesting claim, if accurate, is this:
Mr. Romney’s possible running mates, who have handed over reams of documents to the campaign, have probably opened themselves to  a greater level of scrutiny than the candidate himself, especially on the thorny question of taxes. Mr. Romney has said he will disclose federal tax returns covering two years by Election Day, far fewer than the 23 years’ worth that he handed over to Senator John McCain as a possible vice-presidential pick in 2008.
The two years of returns that Romney intends to release are the 2010 return he has already released and the 2011 return that is still in process.  Neither of which will likely shed any light on his claim that he walked completely away from Bain Capital in 1999.

Mr. Romney presumably had a devout interest in becoming the Vice President candidate on the McCain ticket in 2008.  Why else would he have disclosed over two decades of his tax returns to the McCain campaign?   And presumably after reviewing Romney as a potential candidate, including reviewing his tax returns, a decision was made by McCain to chose Palin over Romney.  Was damaging information in Mitt Romney's tax returns a factor in his not being selected?  We will likely never know, unless Steve Schmidt, the talk-show gadfly ex-campaign advisor to McCain, or someone like him, enlightens us.

But what does it say about Romney that he felt it was appropriate to turn over 23 years of tax returns to the McCain campaign so it could weigh what the returns say about him as a potential vice-president, and now, when he is running for the most important elected office on the planet, he is being much more protective of his privacy.  A rationale inference is that a more fulsome release of his tax returns will be damaging to his chances for election.  While some Republicans have joined in the chorus calling for Romney to release more years of his taxes, McCain has not. Perhaps this was a condition of releasing them to McCain in 2008.  Perhaps McCain feels it is not his place to stoke the fire on the issue.  What McCain has done has been to "personally vouch" that there was nothing in the 23 years of returns that would "disqualify" Romney as a potential candidate:
Everything was fine," McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill. "I can personally vouch for the fact that there was nothing in his tax returns that would in any way be disqualifying for him to be a candidate."
When pressed about whether Romney might be shielding his returns because he paid no taxes, McCain refused to discuss such specifics.
"Please, I am not going to get into that kind of conversation," he said. "All I can tell you, and I can tell you again, is there was nothing disqualifying in his tax returns. And that is a fact."
Apparently the American people can't be trusted to judge for themselves whether there is anything in the returns that would seem "disqualifying" to them.  Instead we are told we must relying on the "vouching" of John McCain.

The attacks on Romney being out of touch with average Americans, an "out-sourcer" at  Bain and someone that has played all sorts of off-shore tax haven angles to maximize his tax savings will continue to resonate until he decides to release many more of his returns.  He really is going to wish he had simply done this early on in the campaign.  The Dems, if they have not already, will start showing clips of his opponents in the primary contests calling for him to do it.

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