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Mitt Romney Changes Position on Releasing Tax Returns, DNC Attacks With WhatMittPays.com Website

Gov. Mitt Romney (Photo source: Christian Science Monitor)

Mitt Romney now says that he will “probably” release his tax records in April after telling NBC in December that he would not, even if he were to become the GOP nominee. “Never say never, but I don’t intend to do so.” Romney told NBC on December 21st, 2011.

Romney estimated in a press conference earlier today in Florence, South Carolina that he “probably” pays only about 15 percent in federal taxes. The DNC quickly seized on Romney’s declared tax rate to attack him for it, launching a website, WhatMittPays.com, within 24 hours with a built-in income tax calculator that compares Romney’s income taxed under investments to income earned through work. This is, in essence, the DNC’s attempt at rehashing President Obama’s “Buffet Rule.”

Romney’s capital gains tax rate is not all that unusual. After all, most of Romney’s earnings come from capital gains, which is taxed at a lower rate than income.

If elected, Romney promised that he would do without the $400,000 presidential salary, much as he foregone his governor’s salary in Massachusetts. He donated his salary from managing the Winter Olympics and the proceeds from his book, No Apology, to charity. Indeed, Romney hasn’t drawn a regular paycheck since he left Bain Capital in 1999.

Speculation runs rife as to why the former business executive has decided to release his tax records. Perhaps it is past experience with Democrats poring over his tax records.

In 2002, the Democrats sought to use the Ballot Law Commission to invalidate Romney’s right to run in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race. They contended that as Romney had left the state to save the Olympics in Utah, he was in violation of the seven-year residency requirement.

The Democrats’ attorney, Joseph D. Steinfeld, said that Romney had filed income taxes as a Utah resident and received a $54,000 property tax break by listing his Utah home as his primary residence. Romney, who had lived in Belmont, MA since 1971, contended that listing the Utah home as his primary residence was a clerical error, made by a local assessor’s office in Utah, and that he was serving his country at the Olympics and thus could be exempted from the seven-year residency rule.

The Massachusetts Democratic Party tried to get Romney’s private tax returns unsealed, but they were stopped. “Private tax returns . . . are off the table at the outset,” Romney’s attorney, John T. Montgomery, argued to the ballot commission. “As a matter of clear legal procedure, they are simply not entitled to the returns.” (Boston Herald, June 15, 2002.)

Romney ultimately won the argument and kept the Democrats from examining his personal finances, but it was expensive for him. He tried to turn the issue in his favor, cutting ads attacking the Democrats for looking into his tax records.

They are now back, fishing again.

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