Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, was taking questions in Greenville, S.C. with the design of defending his Medicare plan against attacks from Democrats. But, as reports The Huff Post, the questions gradually turned elsewhere, with the final one going back to the issue that’s vexed Romney for more than a month.
Asked by reporters whether he had reviewed his returns, Romney said: “I did go back and look at my taxes, and over the past 10 years I never paid less than 13%.”
He als said that if charitable giving were excluded, he would have paid “well above 20%” of his income in federal taxes.
“I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces – 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of six Americans in poverty – the fascination with taxes I’ve paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face,” Romney added.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Romney has released returns for 2010, showing that he paid an effective federal income-tax rate of 13.9% on $21.7 million income, most from investments. He also has released an estimate of his 2011 returns. Romney made $3 million in tax-deductible charitable donations in 2010.
Democrats and some Republicans have pressed him to release more years of returns. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even accused the presumptive Republican nominee of not paying taxes for 10 years, a claim the Republican has strongly denied.
“Harry Reid’s charge is totally false,” Mr. Romney said Thursday at a news conference in South Carolina, where he was on a fundraising campaign stop. “I’m sure waiting for Harry to put up who it was that told him what he says they told him. I don’t believe it for a minute.”
However, Democrats were not satisfied with Romney’s comments.
“He has the ability to answer all of these questions by releasing several years worth of tax returns and he simply hasn’t done that. So we say: prove it Governor Romney,” President Barack Obama’s campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said.
According to The Huff Post, Lis Smith, Obama for America spokeswoman, released a statement on Mitt Romney’s claim that he never paid less than 13 percent in taxes at any point over the past decade: “Mitt Romney today said that he did indeed ‘go back and look’ at his tax returns and that he never paid less than 13% in taxes in any year over the past decade. Since there is substantial reason to doubt his claims, we have a simple message for him: prove it.”
“Even though he’s invested millions in foreign tax havens, offshore shell corporations, and a Swiss bank account, he’s still asking the American people to trust him. However, given Mitt Romney’s secrecy about his returns, coupled with the revelations in just the one return we have seen to date and the inconsistencies between this one return and his other financial disclosures, he has forfeited the right to have us take him just at his word,” Smith said in the statement.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is one of the richest men ever to run for U.S. president. He has an estimated net worth of up to $250 million.
Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and its Democratic allies have featured Romney’s wealth and refusal to release more tax returns in ads painting him as out of touch.
This strategy appears to be working, according to the recent polls. Independent voters in swing states have a lower opinion of Romney after hearing about his business record and personal finances.