Romney Tax Release Comes After Months of Pressure
Mitt Romney paid an effective tax rate of 14% in 2011. (KTLA-TV)
Republicans urging further release hoped additional documents would put the issue of what Romney paid to rest.
Democrats speculated that hidden within the unreleased years were politically embarrassing secrets, with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid claiming he had been told that Romney had not paid taxes over the course of a decade.
Romney, meanwhile, maintained that more releases would lead to only more mudslinging from his opponents. Besides, he said, his disclosures so far had satisfied the legal obligations upon him.
"In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy," Romney said in a July interview.
The documents disclosed Friday included the candidate's full 2011 tax return, as well as a letter from his accounting firm providing a generalized look at Romney's tax rate and charitable contributions over the past two decades.
A presidential candidate's tax records are naturally subject to some scrutiny, but Romney's wealth and investment industry background, as well as his father's history with disclosure during a presidential run, have only raised the interest in Romney's tax documents.
When George Romney ran for the White House four decades ago, he released a dozen years of returns, setting what some have described as a standard for disclosure.
At a presidential debate the day before the January release, Romney said "I agree with my dad on a lot of things, but we also disagree."
Two years of returns, he added, "is more than anyone else on this stage" had disclosed.
While pressure mounted early in 2012, Romney initially sounded unsure of what he would release.
"You know, I don't know how many years I'll release," he said at a CNN debate in January.
"I'll take a look at what our documents are and I'll release multiple years. I don't know how many years, and - but I'll be happy to do that."
But since then, he has referenced Sen. John McCain's 2008 disclosure of two years as a standard, and when he released his 2010 return and an estimate of his 2011 return in January of this year, the GOP candidate vowed to follow with his full 2011 tax year documents.
But that would be the extent of the disclosure, the campaign has maintained.
The January 25th release came after several Romney's Republican rivals for the presidential nomination called for greater disclosure and days before the January 31 Republican primary in Florida.
Ahead of the January 21 South Carolina primary, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich released his 2010 tax documents and called for Romney to follow suit.
"Governor Romney, if he plans to stay in the race, ought to plan to release his records," Gingrich said on NBC.
He suggested that holding off on a release could lead to an unpleasant surprise for the GOP shortly before the election, should something embarrassing be in Romney's files, and should it emerge shortly before the November election.