Tax return issue continues to dog Romney
Mitt Romney isn't bowing to pressure to release more than two years' worth of tax returns, but the debate over the matter isn't going away. If anything, the dialogue is heating up as Romney's defenders push back and his opponents find new ways to keep the issue alive.
On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Sandy Levin of Michigan announced that he is preparing legislation that would require presidential candidates to make public 10 years of tax returns and disclose overseas accounts. In a statement, Levin said he would introduce the bill in the coming weeks in response to Romney's refusal to release more than two years of returns.
"The stunning lack of transparency from someone in pursuit of the highest office in the country highlights the need to change the law to require fuller disclosure," Levin said.
To date, Romney has released his 2010 return and an estimate of his 2011 return, with a promise to release the 2011 return when it's complete. In an interview on WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh Tuesday night, Romney said releasing more returns would be like handing ammunition to the Democrats.
"Their opposition people look for anything they can find to distort, to twist and to try and make negative," he said. "And I want to make this campaign about the economy and creating jobs."
House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday also told reporters that the issue was a distraction, expressing his exasperation with the continued scrutiny Romney's facing.
"The American people are asking where are the jobs. They're not asking where the hell the tax returns are," Boehner said. "This is another sideshow intended to draw the American people's attention from the real issues, and the real issue is the president's economic policies have failed."
The speaker added, "And so whether it's the tax returns or whether it's Bain Capital, you'll see every distraction known to man because the president can't run on his record. It's not about the tax returns. The American people vote with their wallets."
On CBS This Morning Wednesday, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- one of Romney's potential running mates -- defended the GOP candidate. There is no claim or no credible indication that Mitt Romney has done anything wrong. He is in the range of past practice and custom," he said.
Not surprisingly, Romney has faced the most pressure from the Obama campaign and the president's allies, like the liberal group MoveOn -- both President Obama's re-election campaign and MoveOn are suggesting Romney could be hiding seriously damaging information in his returns. MoveOn on Wednesday is airing an ad in Ohio comparing Romney to Richard Nixon.
At the same time, some conservative politicians and organizations like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the conservative magazine the National Review have also suggested Romney could be more transparent. "No matter who you are or what office you are running for, you should be as transparent as you can be with your tax returns and other aspects of your life so that people have the appropriate ability to judge your background," Perry said to Austin, Tex., CBS affiliate KEYE-TV on Tuesday.
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