January 18, 2012

WE’RE GLAD MITT ROMNEY has agreed to release his tax returns. This never should have been an issue. The intrusion of making taxes public goes with the territory of running for president. Mr. Romney now says that he expects to release the tax information in April; he has not been clear about how many years’ worth of tax information will be provided.

But one of Mr. Romney’s rivals for the Republican nomination, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, has a good question for him — and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Romney supporter, had some good advice.

“I think the people of South Carolina ought to know now — if there’s nothing there, why hide it until April, and if there’s something there, don’t the people of South Carolina deserve to know before Saturday?” Mr. Gingrich asked in an interview with CBS News, referring to the date of the state’s primary.

Mr. Christie, speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, said the former Massachusetts governor should release the returns “sooner rather than later,” adding, “It’s always better, in my view, to have complete disclosure, especially when you’re the front-runner.”

Indeed, there is nothing magical or set in stone about April simply because that’s when the next tax return is due. On that subject, as much as Mr. Romney might want to limit disclosure to a year or two, that would be unfortunate. Barack Obama released tax returns dating to 2000 in March 2008. John F. Kerry released 10 years’ worth of tax returns. Some Republican candidates have been less forthcoming: John McCain limited disclosure to two years, for example, and George W. Bush to a single year. If Mr. Romney is tempted in that direction, might we suggest a better role model: his father, George Romney, who in 1968 released a dozen years of returns.

And another suggestion: Mr. Romney might learn from his ham-handed handling of the tax issue and deal with another disclosure lapse: the names of his “bundlers,” the well-connected supporters who haul in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. As with tax returns, candidates are not required by law to release this information; as with tax returns, it is pertinent, and most candidates in recent years, including Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain, have provided it.

Bundlers play an important role in helping to finance presidential campaigns. In the age of the super PAC, knowing the names of a candidate’s bundlers, and the degree to which they have helped, is important in tracing links between the individual campaign and the theoretically independent political action committee. Mr. Romney’s campaign has not addressed our requests for this information. We intend to keep asking.