The chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party said Wednesday that while the decision on whether to release more tax returns is ultimately up to Mitt Romney, “there’s certainly an upside” to revealing more about his personal finances.
“Certainly, I don’t think Mitt Romney has anything to hide, and probably the best thing to do is to eliminate any chance for (the Democrats) to make this an issue,” New Hampshire GOP Chairman Wayne MacDonald said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
MacDonald was one of several swing state GOP chairmen who spoke about the tax return issue in interviews Wednesday. He is the latest Republican to suggest that Romney could sustain more political damage by declining to release more than two years of tax returns than by making public more of his personal financial information.
The fissure among Republicans was evident as several other state party chairmen maintained Wednesday that Romney has released sufficient financial information; Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry argued that if Democrats want more tax returns from the presumptive GOP nominee, “then they ought to try to change the law.”
MacDonald, who took the reins of the New Hampshire GOP in September 2011, emphasized that he believes “too much is being made of the tax return issue” and that the matter is being used as political leverage by Democrats, who are “trying to exploit any piece of information they don’t have about (Romney).”
But he made the case, as have a growing number of Republicans in recent days, that the political benefits in releasing the returns outweigh the potential risk.
“I would hesitate to tell the governor what to do. ... He’s running for the presidency; he has a right to privacy in certain parts in his life,” MacDonald said. “I respect whatever decision he makes, but there’s certainly a political advantage to complying with the request.”
MacDonald declined to say how many years of tax information he believes it would be advantageous for Romney to disclose but argued that it “would be excessive” to release a dozen years of returns, as some Democrats have called for.
Top GOP officials in other swing states including Florida, Colorado and Iowa on Wednesday forcefully echoed the Romney camp in maintaining that the tax-return fight is a distraction from the main campaign issue, the economy.
“Mitt Romney is in full compliance with the law; in fact, he’s exceeded what’s required under the law in terms of disclosure, and again it’s just a political game,” said Curry, the Florida GOP chairman.
Curry charged that by calling for the tax returns, Obama “wants people to be jealous of and resent wealth” and that the president “is without question wanting a street fight in this campaign.”
Asked about prominent Republicans, including the National Review editorial board and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), who have called on Romney to release more of his returns, Curry argued that “if someone believes there should be more, then change the law — make the case, make the argument, then change the law, whether it’s Ron Paul or anybody else.”
Some Democrats on Capitol Hill have already sought to do just that; on Wednesday, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) and Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) introduced legislation that would require candidates to disclose 10 years of tax returns.
In defending Romney, Curry also likened the tax-return debate to the question of Obama’s college transcripts – just as Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) did on Tuesday.
“President Obama hasn’t released his college transcripts,” Curry said. “I mean, I don’t care about his college transcripts, but it’s hypocritical to call for transparency and then withhold something himself.”
Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado State Party, said that his advice to the presumptive GOP nominee’s campaign is “to continue doing what you’re doing.”
“The reality is if he releases five years, they’re going to say he needs to release eight. If he releases eight, they’re going to say he needs to release 12,” Call said, adding that Romney has already released “more than 500 pages of detailed financial information.”
A.J. Spiker, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party and a onetime vice chairman of Paul’s campaign in the Hawkeye State, dismissed the argument made by some Republicans that the tax return issue will only continue to dog Romney if he declines to release more information.
“I haven’t seen any indication of that, and it’s really up to the Romney campaign how they want to run their campaign. ... As I walk down the street, I don’t hear people talking about some of these tax returns,” he said.
Nathan Conrad, communications director for the Wisconsin Republican Party, also chalked the issue up to political gamesmanship by the Obama campaign.
“Rather than discuss the real issues and his plans to get people back to work, the president is running away from his record like someone training for the 100-meter dash in the upcoming Olympic Games,” he said.