Hoping to put to rest the mounting controversy over his personal finances, Mitt Romney said Sunday that he will release his 2010 tax returns and an estimate for 2011 Tuesday. The Republican presidential candidate had said previously that he would make some of his tax information public in April.
“We just made a mistake in holding off as long as we did,” Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “It just was a distraction. We want to get back to the real issues in the campaign: leadership, character, a vision for America, how to get jobs again in America and how to rein in the excessive scale of the federal government.”
The decision comes a day after Romney’s campaign sustained a blow in South Carolina, where former House speaker Newt Gingrich won the state’s primary after a last-minute surge. Romney had been the front-runner in the polls there just a week ago, but Gingrich finished more than 12 percentage points ahead of him.
In the interview, Romney said Gingrich’s strong debate performance Monday, in which he aggressively chastised moderator Juan Williams, contributed to the former congressman’s last-minute surge.
Romney also acknowledged that he had a tough week of attacks by his opponents, including criticism of his time at the helm of the private equity firm Bain Capital, and had to contend with the announcement that, despite being declared the early winner of the Iowa caucuses, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum officially prevailed in that contest.
“Speaker Gingrich had a good week,” Romney said. “His debate sparring with Juan Williams was a good opportunity for him to show some strength. Was not a great week for me. We spent a lot of time talking about tax returns and of course the changing vote in Iowa.”
Romney said he plans to post his tax documents on his campaign Web site Tuesday, but it is unclear whether the disclosure will satisfy his critics. In Thursday’s debate, CNN moderator John King noted that Romney’s father, George Romney, released 12 years of tax returns during his presidential run.
Asked by Wallace whether he would release further years, Romney responded that he did not expect to make “a second release down the road.” But he acknowledged that Democrats will probably hammer him on that and other subjects having to do with his substantial personal wealth.
Romney has said he pays a tax rate of about 15 percent, which is less than many Americans, because so much of his income is in the form of capital gains. His finances also came under scrutiny after revelations that he keeps millions in personal holdings in the Caymen Islands, though Romney reiterated Sunday that he fully pays his tax bills to the U.S. government.
“I know people will try to find something, but we pay full-fare taxes, and as you’ll see, it’s a pretty substantial amount,” Romney said on the program.
Gingrich has attacked Romney for his failure to release his taxes more quickly, accusing him of a lack of transparency. Last week Gingrich released his 2010 tax returns, which showed that he and his wife, Callista, paid nearly $995,000 in federal taxes on adjusted income of $3.14 million in 2010.
That translated to an effective tax rate of about 31.6 percent, according to tax documents released by his presidential campaign late Thursday. The records appear to put the Gingriches in line with the typical tax rate for people earning their level of income, which ranks them in the top 1 percent of all taxpayers.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gingrich told moderator David Gregory that Romney’s decision settles the issue. “I think that’s a very good thing he’s doing, and I commend him for it,” Gingrich said. “As far as I am concerned, that particular issue is now set aside and we can go on to talk about bigger and more important things.”
Romney also defended his practice of committing 10 percent of his income to the Mormon church, which is customary for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it is formally called. He said he did not believe his religion would be an issue in the campaign long term, even though exit polls from South Carolina suggested that it might have been a hindrance there.