Romney touted tax increases to lobby S&P, says report

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Since entering the 2012 presidential race, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has repeatedly emphasized his opposition to raising tax revenues as a way to reduce America's deficit. But according to a new Politico report, the former Massachusetts governor in 2004 cited revenue increases when lobbying ratings agency Standard & Poor's to raise his state's credit rating.

According to the report, Romney's administration delivered a Nov. 4, 2004, presentation in which it successfully urged S&P to give Massachusetts a credit rating upgrade in light of a series of steps he had taken to improve the state's economy - including both spending cuts and new revenues. In the presentation, administration officials also touted 2002 tax increases which Romney, who at the time had been running for office, said he opposed.

Among those actions cited include legislation to close tax "loopholes" that added $269 million in "additional recurring revenue" to the state budget, as well as tax amnesty legislation that provided an additional $174 million.

On Monday, just a week after he spoke out against a deal to raise the debt limit in part because he thought it "opens the door" to tax increases, Romney touted his dealings with S&P as Massachusetts governor.

"When I was governor, S&P rewarded Massachusetts with a credit rating upgrade for our sound fiscal management and the underlying strength of our economy," Romney said in a statement. "That didn't happen by accident. The president's failure to put the nation's fiscal and economic house in order has caused a massive loss of confidence that resulted in an embarrassing downgrade."

It is unclear from the documents, obtained by Politico through a state freedom of information law, whether or not Romney was actually present at the 2004 meeting. But the putative GOP frontrunner has spoken proudly about his personal involvement with S&P during his time as governor.

"The president really ought to personally sit down and meet with S&P. I did that when I was governor," Romney said in a recent radio interview. "I met with the ratings agencies and talked about our future and tried to instill confidence in our future because, look, how they rate our debt and how they rate our future as a nation will affect the interest costs that we end up paying and will affect homeowners and borrowers all over the country," said Romney.

Romney aides maintain, however, that the then-governor achieved economic gains in his state through "prudent financial management" rather than raising taxes.

"Gov. Romney never favored, never advocated, and never signed a tax increase into law. In fact, he cut taxes 19 times. The rating agencies rewarded Massachusetts during Gov. Romney's term with a credit rating upgrade. They cited an improving state economy and prudent financial management. It's a sharp contrast to the failures of President Obama, which has resulted in millions of lost jobs, a broken budget and America's first-ever downgrade," Romney campaign aide Eric Fehrnstrom told the Wall Street Journal.

A number of Republicans have expressed openness to tax reform that would ostensibly close loopholes, but Romney argued during the debt limit debate that the nation's borrowing limit should be increased only when the government had cut and capped spending, and passed a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

"The answer for the country is for the president to agree to cut fed spending, to cap fed spending and to put in place a balanced budget amendment," Romney said in July. "For me, that's the line in the sand."