CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) continues to face fire for not releasing his tax returns, particularly as questions mount about the 15 percent tax rate he says he pays, offshore investments in tax shelters like the Cayman Islands, and his continued income from the private equity firm he founded, Bain Capital.
Romney offered hints Thursday that the tax returns may come out, telling his first crowd of the day that they would see the returns in April. He repeated that in Thursday’s CNN debate, dodging questions about the 12 years of tax returns his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney (R), released before he ran for president in 1968.
After the CNN debate, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), who endorsed Romney, dismissed calls for the release of the returns as no big deal:
FREI: There’s the tax issue — 15 percent tax, money in the Cayman Islands, he doesn’t file his tax returns. None of that looks convincing to ordinary Americans who are afraid of losing their jobs.
HALEY: That’s not true. It’s not that he’s never filed his tax returns. He’s disclosed everything. He’s filed every tax return.
FREI: He doesn’t publicize them.
HALEY: He is in April. He’s going to do it in April.
FREI: Why not do it now?
HALEY: Why would he have to do it now? What he’s talking about are the things South Carolina cares about: jobs, spending, and the economy.
Top Romney campaign official Stuart Stevens also dismissed the calls, saying the matter was an “absolute non-issue.” But from outside Romney’s operation and within, calls for the release of the returns are continuing. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who endorsed Romney, has said it would be better if Romney were to release them soon. The conservative magazine National Review did the same.
As Haley and Stevens both noted, Romney isn’t legally obligated to release his returns. But with questions rising about Romney’s tax rate and his offshore investments, and considering that his top opponent in South Carolina has released his own returns, South Carolinians and other Republican primary voters would be interested in knowing how Romney has managed to pay a lower tax rate than many middle class Americans.