Tomorrow’s News Today – Romney’s Next Political Problem
Yesterday’s media blitz (interviews with each of 5 television networks, answering questions about his involvement with Bain Capital after Feb. 1999) by Mitt Romney demonstrated two things:
- The Romney campaign really wants this story to go away, and;
- This story isn’t going away.
It isn’t going away because, as President Obama said in his own TV interview, “I think most Americans figure if you are the chairman, C.E.O. and president of a company that you are responsible for what that company does. Ultimately, Mr. Romney, I think, is going to have to answer those questions.”
Yep, I think so too.
But whenever Romney finally does answer those questions, there’s another, related, and politically damaging set of questions he’ll have to answer about his tax returns.
And the first question is: where are they?
Earlier this year, Romney released his 2010 tax return which showed he’s a really rich guy, with lots of overseas investments, who pays taxes at a lower rate than scads of people who have to work for a living. He’s said he’ll release his 2011 tax return too (once his accountants finish working on it)…but nothing more.
The Obama campaign has helpfully released 12 years of tax returns from Pres. Obama and Vice-Pres. Biden. Ever since presidential candidate George Romney released 12 years of his tax returns in 1967 (because “one year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show…”), it’s become commonplace for presidential nominees to release several years of tax returns. (Obama released 8 years of returns in 2008.)
Four years ago, Mitt Romney reportedly turned over 23 years of tax returns to the McCain campaign when he was “under consideration” as a vice-presidential candidate to run with McCain. (Note: “under consideration” is in quotation marks because it was common knowledge on the campaign trail that McCain despised Romney and wanted nothing to do with him.) As TPM’s Brian Beutler observes, MSNBC commentator (and former McCain campaign strategist) Steve Schmidt is a voice worth listening for in the coming days and weeks on this issue. Schmidt likely knows—or at least has a pretty good idea—what is in those returns.
It’s not helpful for the Romney campaign—in fact, it’s a sign of the weakness of their position—to have senior Republican leaders like Rep. Pete Sessions saying “His personal finances, the way he does things, his record, are fair game.”
Pete Sessions isn’t a maverick like North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones, or a semi-disgraced former party leader like Michael Steele (both of whom have called on Romney to release several years of tax returns). Sessions is an eight-term Texas Republican incumbent who won re-election with 63% of the vote in 2010. His peers chose him to chair the National Republican Congressional Committee, the fundraising and campaign arm of the Republican Party for House races. He’s on the House Rules Committee. He’s a well-established and trusted party leader.
If Pete Sessions is saying publicly that Romney’s taxes are “fair game”, then a lot of other influential Republicans are saying it privately—to each other and to the Romney campaign.
And that’s tomorrow’s news today.