Romney’s Release of 2011 Tax Returns Keeps Romney the Person Going as the Big Issue
Will the next week be a broken record? Will next week be yet another week when the main issue and news focus of Presidential campaign 2012 isn’t really the economy, or jobs, or immigration reform, or Libya, or whether Barack Obama delivered on hope and change and why he didn’t or didn’t, or the national debt? Will it be yet another week with a debate — or furor — swirling around the persona of Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney?
It certainly seems that way.
In what some say is a typical Friday after noon news “dump” — a time when campaigns try to unload bad news figuring the press is short staffed on weekends or a story won’t get as much attention – Romney released his 2011 tax returns. But they already raised questions that some on the left and elsewhere are asking a respected Republican strategist/commentator was aghast at the political flat-footedness of it all.
Mitt Romney paid $1.95 million in taxes on his 2011 investment income of $13.7 million, his campaign revealed on Friday, making good on Mr. Romney’s promise earlier this year to eventually release his full returns for that year.
Mr. Romney, who made millions by running Bain Capital, a private equity firm, paid an effective federal tax rate of 14.1 percent in taxes, primarily because most of his income was in the form of capital gains that are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income. Mr. Romney has said that he has paid at least 13 percent in federal income taxes in each of the last 10 years.
In order for that claim to be true in 2011, Mr. Romney had to voluntarily take a smaller deduction than he was entitled to for his charitable deductions, his advisers said Friday.
Mr. Romney and his wife, Ann, donated about $4 million to charity in 2011, but claimed only $2.25 million as a deduction. The campaign said that Mr. Romney’s tax liability would have been far lower in 2011 had the Romneys claimed the full deduction for their charitable contributions.
“The Romneys thus limited their deduction of charitable contributions to conform to the governor’s statement in August, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13 percent in income taxes in each of the last 10 years,” said R. Bradford Malt, Mr. Romney’s trustee.
It is possible, however, that Mr. Romney could still deduct the unclaimed amount of his charitable donations in future tax years, experts said.
The Republican presidential nominee, who released his 2010 tax returns in January, continues to refuse demands from President Obama’s campaign and other Democrats to release multiple years of his returns. Mr. Obama has sought to portray Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch millionaire who used off-shore accounts and accounting gimmicks to reduce his tax liability.
In an indication that the summaries will not satisfy Mr. Romney’s critics, Brad Woodhouse, the communications director for the Democratic National Committee, posted the following message on Twitter: “Summaries? What is Romney hiding? This isn’t just abt rates — how about Swiss Bank Accts, Bermuda Shell Cos and Caymans Investments?”
Romney’s former strategist Alex Castellanos was amazed. The Politico:
Alex Castellanos, the former Mitt Romney strategist from 2008 who has alternately been critical and praising of the current campaign, left no doubt where he stands on the decision to release a summary of the candidate’s tax rates over 20 years.
“At first I thought this was an April Fool’s Joke,” said Castellanos, who tweeted something to that effect at me earlier. “But it isn’t April. I can’t imagine that David Axelrod will now say, I’m glad Mitt put this issue behind him. This will drag Mitt’s taxes back into the debate. And there’s not many days left. I just can’t imagine why they would do this. There are 40 days left and you have now made more of them about Mitt’s taxes….you don’t serve a life sentence and then confess afterward. They’ve taken their beating on this (already) … I just don’t understand how a (being) ‘little pregnant’ strategy (works).”
Other Republican operatives have emailed in with a similar reaction – that the summary is going to revive, instead of settle, questions on an issue where what had seemed to be the worst was already behind Romney.
It is unclear whether the release of these documents will fully quell Democratic criticism of Romney. While the Obama campaign will be able to pore over another year’s worth of returns, they might not shed insight into what particular instruments the Romneys used to achieve their yearly tax rate. Democrats, for instance, have speculated that Romney might have taken advantage of offshore tax shelters in the Cayman Islands, a claim that might not be substantiated by today’s release.
Andrew Sullivan probably summed up the view of many when he titled his post: “Romney’s Tax Release: No Big Surprises.” And reaction on many blogs was predictable, given their partisan preference.
So, let’s just take a second here to process this. Mitt Romney, who is ostensibly uncaring, out-of-touch, and disdainful of poor people, gave more than 13 percent of his income (amounting to millions and millions of dollars) over twenty years to charity, and didn’t even always take the full tax deduction. (The bastard!) By at least one count, the average effective federal tax rate for Americans is 11 percent — and Romney’s average annual rate was 20 percent, also amounting to millions and millions of dollars that went into the federal government’s coffers. He has done nothing wrong or shady, unless you consider being a wildly excellent businessman to be a vice, and the finger-pointers now look pretty darn dumb.
If this isn’t it, can somebody please explain to me exactly what it is that a “fair share” is supposed to look like? Are we supposed to detest rich people, or should we admire them? Will the real Barack Obama please stand up?
Mitt Romney released his 2011 tax returns Friday, along with a brief summary of his 1990-2009 tax returns.
The Romney campaign is asking voters to take its word on the details of his previous returns, but the new information helps address some of the big questions surrounding his finances — like whether he once paid zero taxes. Other questions — like Romney’s offshore holdings — are still unclear.
Below is a guide as to some of the big revelations — and biggest remaining questions — in Romney’s latest disclosure.
Read the whole thing.
The problem here?
The story will continue to be Mitt Romney. Not Mitt Romney and his proposed policies, but a continuing narrative over who he is and the depth of his character. There was that political saying from Bill Clinton’s campaign: “It’s the economy stupid.” Romney’s ideas on the economy will continue to receed as a lot of new and old media attention goes to his tax returns (defending them, blasting them or questionining them.”
And, as Alex Castellanos suggests, the final word in that sentence could well sum up a campaign that may long go down as the perhaps one of the purest physical manifestations of that six-letter-s-word in American Presidential political history.