A number of people are pointing to Mitt Romney’s latest excuse for not releasing his tax returns, which is that it would violate his religious privacy:
“Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given,” Romney tells Parade magazine in an edition due out Sunday. “This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one’s financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It’s a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church.”
There are a number of problems with this explanation. For instance, as Steve Benen notes, we already know how much he’s given to the Mormon church in at least one year, the one for which he did make his returns available. Alex Seitz Wald, meanwhile, points out that this didn’t stop Romney’s father from releasing a dozen years of tax returns, which detailed how much he’d given to the church.
I’d add one more point here: One of those calling on Romney to release his returns happens to be ... a very prominent Mormon. As you may recall, Jon Huntsman Sr., a longtime Romney backer and fundraiser, has publicly told Romney that he needs to release his returns in order to be “square with the American people.”
Indeed, Romney’s latest excuse makes Huntsman’s call for him to release his returns newly relevant. What does Huntsman, a Mormon and a very wealthy man himself, think of Romney’s new explanation?
More broadly, this new excuse is of a piece with something larger: An attempt to humanize Romney with a new focus on his faith. As Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins reports, the final night of the convention will bring Romney’s Mormonism into the spotlight, with the goal of “presenting Mitt Romney the Man to the electorate.” Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns may be one of the reasons he comes across as inaccessible. Citing his Mormonism as a reason for not releasing them puts a human gloss on what comes across as a politically motivated and calculating lack of transparency.