Aug 06, 2012.
Mitt Romney must hate the "T" word by now. No matter how much he tries to stay away from it, it just keeps following him around.
So far, he's in denial. He keeps thinking he can continue to refuse to release more tax returns and that the whole question about why he won't will just go away.
But it doesn't. Even when the issue is whether Olympic medal winners should pay taxes on the cash prizes that come with their victory, the question rolls back around to Mitt -- as in, how much would Mitt and Ann Romney have to pay if her horse, Rafalca, won a gold in the elite dressage event?
Thankfully, a bipartisan gaggle of legislators (including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; more on that in a bit) want to make it zero -- which is exactly how much Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says a thus-far anonymous source told him Romney paid over a period of 10 years.
That's now the burning question of the presidential campaign, even more than who Mitt will pick as his running mate and whether Rubio still stands a chance.
In fact, as much as Romney hopes the whole issue will drop out of sight (like his returns), Democratic surrogates for President Obama and ranking Republicans alike spent much of Sunday hashing over the whole tax thing -- again.
Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus was blunt. He called Reid a "dirty liar" on the ABC News show "This Week."
"As far as Harry Reid is concerned, listen, I know you might want to go down that road. I'm not going to respond to a dirty liar who hasn’t filed a single page of tax returns himself. (He) complains about people with money but lives in the Ritz Carlton here down the street," Priebus said. "So if that's on the agenda, I'm not going to go there. This is just a made-up issue. And the fact that we're going to spend any time talking about it is ridiculous."
That came moments after the head of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida threw the ball in Romney's court.
"I do know that Mitt Romney could clear this up in ten seconds by releasing the 23 years of tax returns that he gave to John McCain when he was being vetted for vice president. Or even 12 years of tax returns that his own father said were what was appropriate. Because one year of tax returns, like he's released, could just be for show," she said. "Like the overwhelming majority of voters believe, because the polls all show, that Mitt Romney owes us more than one year of tax returns. Owes us answers to questions about his overseas investments, owes us answers to questions about why he's decided to invest in foreign countries, as opposed to investing in the United States."
The Dems can smell blood. So can the GOP. Even top Republicans agree that the only way for Romney to end the tax talk is to release more years.
"I think at this point of time it's going to dog him all the way and he needs to get it behind him," GOP strategist Ed Rollins said on Fox News. "I think he needs to release more taxes. Absolutely."
And Rollins ain't just some guy talking. He handled the presidential campaigns for both Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee, and was part of Ronald Reagan's reelection team.
Worse for Romney, that's another respected Republican joining with the ranks of conservatives like Haley Barbour, Bill Kristol and George Will calling on Mitt to throw the returns out there and end the speculation about what on earth is in them that he doesn't want us to see.
So Romney's got to cringe every time he hears the "T" word, even when it's associated with what might otherwise be good news, like his wife's horse fancy stepping around the Olympic ring. Because just when you'd think people would be focusing on the athleticism of the Olympic competition, news broke that U.S. medal winners have to pay taxes on the cash prize that comes with the win.
Gold medal winners, for example, get a $25,000 prize. Depending on their tax bracket, that means they'd have to hand over several thousand to the IRS. In the case of the Romneys, who showed nearly $22 million in income in 2010, that could be close to $9,000.
Well, several members of congress jumped up in outrage, proposing competing bills to exempt the win. One of them was Marco Rubio, who is supposedly still on Romney's list of potential VPs.
"Our tax code is a complicated and burdensome mess that too often punishes success, and the tax imposed on Olympic medal winners is a classic example of this madness," he said. "We can all agree that these Olympians who dedicate their lives to athletic excellence should not be punished when they achieve it."
Somehow, he didn't seem to see the irony of complaining about how complicated the tax code is, and then proposing another loophole to make it even more so.
But as the Sunday news shows proved, the Olympic taxes served as only a minor distraction. The talk is already back to Mitt, and how much longer he'll continue to take damage instead of just putting his returns out there.
Even his much-anticipated announcement of his VP pick may not do much to put the tax thing to rest. Some pesky reporter may ask if Romney demanded to see his running mate's returns, even if he won't show his own.
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