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Ahead of GOP South Carolina debate, Democratic National Committee dings Romney

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below, from the Democratic National Committee...


In advance of today's debate in Charleston, the Democratic National Committee released a memo detailing the questions Mitt Romney needs to answer tonight: Why won't he release his tax records for at least the last eight years? The memo delves into the possible answers to this one - could it be the low tax rate he pays...or perhaps the offshore accounts uncovered by ABC News? And what does he really think about Super PACs?

Also today, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz arrives in Charleston to continue the Democrats' presence on the ground to provide on-site response to Mitt Romney and the GOP candidates, as they continue their campaign to distort President Obama's record for their own gain. She will join former DNC Chair Don Fowler and State Rep. Bakari Sellers at a 3 p.m. ET press conference to discuss Mitt Romney's real record in South Carolina, as well as the questions raised in the memo released today. Wasserman Schultz will also conduct local and national television interviews before and after the debate.


From: Brad Woodhouse, Democratic National Committee

To: Interested Parties

Date: January 19, 2012

RE: Questions Mitt Romney Needs to Answer at Tonight's Debate

Tonight, as the Republican presidential candidates meet in South Carolina for their final debate before the state's Saturday primary, voters still have a number of unanswered questions about Mitt Romney and his campaign. That's because throughout the course of Romney's presidential bid, he has continued to run a campaign based on secrecy and a fundamental lack of transparency with the American people, who deserve to know the truth about Mitt Romney before they head to the polls.

From refusing to release his tax returns despite overwhelming precedent for presidential candidates doing so, to repeatedly shifting his position on Super PACs, Mitt Romney has been dodging the issues left and right. Will he finally come clean tonight?

WHY WON'T MITT ROMNEY FOLLOW PRECEDENT AND RELEASE HIS TAX RECORDS FOR AT LEAST THE LAST SIX YEARS?

In an editorial published on Tuesday, the New York Times called on Mitt Romney to release his income tax returns - a standard practice for presidential candidates that Romney has refused to follow - emphasizing that Romney's "insistence on secrecy" regarding his tax returns is "impossible to defend." Mitt Romney has been carelessly rejecting a precedent set by every Republican and Democratic presidential nominee for a generation. His own father released his tax returns going back 12 years when he ran for president in 1968. Romney's reluctance to playing by the same set of rules as everyone else also stands in direct contrast to President Obama, who during his 2008 presidential campaign released his tax returns going back to 2000.

With mounting pressure from his own party to come clean with the American people - even New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Romney's staunchest ally on the campaign trail, said yesterday that Romney should release his tax returns "sooner rather than later" - Mitt Romney began to pivot during the GOP presidential debate on Monday night. He told voters that night that he would "probably" agree to release his returns in April, but he refused to commit to any specifics and will not say whether he'll release returns for more than just one year.

What is Mitt Romney so worried about? For starters, he has likely been trying to avoid having voters find out what he reluctantly admitted on Tuesday - that that he has paid "closer to the 15 percent" tax rate, a lower rate than what most middle-class families pay. The truth is that Romney made his millions from investments at Bain Capital, which are taxed at a far lower rate than the wages of working and middle-class Americans. There's a clear reason why Romney opposes the Buffett rule, which says millionaires should not pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries as a result of tax loopholes: he benefits from them. There's also the issue of Mitt Romney's investments in offshore funds, raised today by ABC News: "Romney has as much as $8 million invested in at least 12 funds listed on a Cayman Islands registry. Another investment, which Romney reports as being worth between $5 million and $25 million, shows up on securities records as having been domiciled in the Caymans." Releasing returns from years prior to 2011 could help shed light on the potential financial benefits offshore funds provide.

Tonight, we'll see if Mitt Romney finally follows the precedent set by President Obama and previous presidential candidates by agreeing to release his previous comprehensive federal income tax returns for the past six years - or if he simply plans to continue ducking and dodging the issue.

WHAT DOES MITT ROMNEY REALLY THINK ABOUT SUPER-PACS?

Mitt Romney has also baffled the American people with his roller-coaster ride of positions on Super PACs and their role in the campaign. Romney currently says that he doesn't like Super PACs - saying during a December 20 appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe that we "really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and get rid of these Super PACs." And just a few days ago during a press conference in South Carolina, Romney said, "I think the whole idea of the PACs becoming larger than the campaigns themselves is a very bad idea."

But in the very same press conference, Mitt Romney then went on to say that "we raise money for Super PACs, we encourage Super PACs." And Romney's campaign has welcomed the support of Restore Our Future, with Romney even calling ROF "my Super PAC" during Monday night's GOP debate. This is the same debate, by the way, where Mitt Romney claimed he hasn't spoken to anyone at his Super PAC "in months." Why, then, did Politico report just yesterday that "Romney has attended multiple events for his super PAC." When did Mitt Romney last speak to people associated with his Super PAC? What did they discuss? Is Mitt Romney really being straightforward with the American people?

CONCLUSION

Clearly, Mitt Romney still has some serious explaining to do when it comes to his willingness to run a transparent campaign and tell voters the truth. Tonight, Romney will have another opportunity to set the record straight on any number of issues on which he has either taken multiple positions, dodged giving a straightforward response, or both.

The real question this raises is whether Mitt Romney can be trusted - whether he can be honest and upfront with the American people if he were president. As if his lack of core convictions wasn't enough to question whether he can be trusted, his inability to be straight with the American public - about his finances, the tax rate he pays, and his connections to his Super PAC - should give voters pause as they consider his candidacy.

Tonight we'll see if he finally agrees to come clean and give voters in South Carolina and across the country the respect that they deserve - but we wouldn't bet $10,000 on it.


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 19, 2012 5:23 AM.

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