Mitt Romney has adopted the "If you give a mouse a cookie" theory of tax returns. He's said he won't release more than two years because, no matter how many years he releases, the Obama campaign will just demand he release even more years than that.
Friday, Jim Messina, Obama's campaign director, sent a letter to Matt Rhoades, his counterpart on the Romney campaign, offering him a deal: Release five years of tax returns -- which only means three years more than Romney has already released -- and the Obama campaign will stop asking for more. Here's the letter:
585 Commercial Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02109
I am writing to ask again that the Governor release multiple years of tax returns, but also to make an offer that should address his concerns about the additional disclosures. Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide. So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: if the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more--neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign.
This request for the release of five years, covering the complete returns for 2007-2012, is surely not unreasonable. Other Presidential candidates have released more, including the Governor's father who provided 12 years of returns. In the Governor's case, a five year release would appropriately span all the years that he has been a candidate for President. It would also help answer outstanding questions raised by the one return he has released to date, such as the range in the effective rates paid, the foreign accounts maintained, the foreign investments made, and the types of tax shelters used.
To provide these five years, the Governor would have to release only three more sets of returns in addition to the 2010 return he has released and the 2011 return he has pledged to provide. And, I repeat, the Governor and his campaign can expect in return that we will refrain from questioning whether he has released enough or pressing for more.
I look forward to your reply.
Obama for America Campaign Manager
The Romney campaign responded:
Thanks for the note.
It is clear that President Obama wants nothing more than to talk about Governor Romney’s tax returns instead of the issues that matter to voters, like putting Americans back to work, fixing the economy and reining in spending.
If Governor Romney’s tax returns are the core message of your campaign, there will be ample time for President Obama to discuss them over the next 81 days.
In the meantime, Governor Romney will continue to lay out his plans for a stronger middle class, to save Medicare, to put work back into welfare, and help the 23 million Americans struggling to find work in the Obama economy.
See you in Denver.
Romney for President
I'll take that as a no.