The uproar over Mitt Romney’s tax returns has dulled in the wake of his selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, but it made a return to the campaign trail Thursday when Romney tried once again to put the issue to bed. Instead, he might have raised more questions over whether there’s something still-hidden in the returns he’s vowed not to release.
Romney assured reporters in South Carolina that he never paid less than a 13 percent tax rate during the 10 years for which he will not release tax returns. He also said he doesn’t see what the big deal is.
“The fascination with taxes I’ve paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues we face,” he said. “But I did go back and look at my taxes and over the past 10 years I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that.”
Romney didn’t specify whether he was referring solely to federal income taxes. A 13 percent federal tax rate — presumably mostly from taxes on capital gains — puts him at a much lower rate than most average Americans pay on their salary and wage income. In the past, Romney has said he pays around 15 percent in taxes, which is the rate on capital gains.
Romney’s been dogged by questions about his taxes since the start of his latest presidential bid. He was booed at a Republican debate when he was coy about his tax returns. Once the general election started, Democrats seized on speculation over Romney’s taxes, and made it the subject of Obama campaign TV spots:
Now Democrats have their answer from Romney, but they still don’t have the proof. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has kept Romney’s taxes in the spotlight with his unsubstantiated allegation that Romney paid zero taxes for more than a decade, information he says was passed on by an anonymous Bain Capital investor.
Romney again tried to shut that accusation down at the press conference Thursday.
“I’ve paid taxes every single year.” he said. “Harry Reid’s charge is totally false.”
The tax conversation is an awkward one for Romney, exposing both his vast personal fortune and facilitating Democrats’ charge that he’s hiding something by talking about the returns’ contents without actually releasing them. That’s why a vocal chorus of conservatives and Romney supporters has urged Romney to release his tax returns. That’s something he still says he won’t do, even after he raised new questions about them Thursday.