Every presidential candidate since 1976 has released their returns, a time-honored tradition dating back to none other than Romney’s father George, who was the first candidate to make his taxes public in 1967. Mitt, on the other hand, has never released his returns during his four election bids — despite having demanded that other candidates to release their own. President Obama released his own returns in March of 2008, well before winning the Democratic nomination.
But like most of his political positions, Romney’s stance on releasing his tax returns seems to be ever-evolving. “I don’t have any plans to release my income tax returns at this point,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Dec. 28. Two days later, he told CNN’s Andrea Mitchell he would “consider it.”
Pressed on the issue at Monday’s Fox News debate in Myrtle Beach, Romney said he would “maybe,” “probably” release them “sometime around April,” leaving himself an opportunity to change his mind yet again. But the former governor’s rambling, stuttered response during the debate left many wondering what Romney has to hide.
“We can’t fire our nominee in September,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry responded during the debate. “We need to know now.”
On Wednesday, Romney offered a few clues when he told reporters in South Carolina he pays a tax rate of about 15 percent. “That’s lower than the tax rate most of America’s middle class face, and far lower than the 35 percent top rate after the Bush tax cut,” commented former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, an outspoken critic of upper-class tax loopholes.
Romney has at least $8 million stashed away in the Cayman Islands, according to ABC. Much of the rest of his estimated $250 million fortune is only subject to the capital gains tax, which is much lower than the income tax rate for his bracket, but Romney isn’t done yet — the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reported yesterday that Romney’s proposed tax plan would further cut his own taxes by nearly 50 percent.
The conservative editorial board of the National Review yesterday urged Romney to release his tax returns immediately, not in April when the Republican nomination will have already been sewn up. While he is unlikely to do so before the South Carolina primary on Saturday, voters of all persuasions will be eager to learn why Romney is so reluctant to release his tax returns — and what, if anything, he’s trying to hide.
UPDATE: It looks like many South Carolinians feel the same way — at Thursday night’s CNN debate in Charleston, several people in the audience booed Romney when he again hedged his bet on releasing his tax returns. Watch: