Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney leaves after a news conference… (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
WASHINGTON -- The Obama campaign, undeterred by Mitt Romney declaring its interest in his tax returns "small-minded," is ready to make a deal.
In a letter to the Romney campaign Friday, Obama campaign chief Jim Messina asks for a total of five years' worth of Romney’s tax returns, from 2007 through 2011. In return, Messina pledges the campaign will put down its sword on the issue -- but only to a point.
"I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more -- neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign," Messina wrote to Matt Rhodes, his counterpart on the Romney campaign.
Messina's letter, released to reporters, points out that the request only asks Romney for three more years of returns beyond what the GOP presidential candidate has provided, and already pledged to provide -- a request Team Obama calls "surely not unreasonable."
"In the Governor’s case, a five year release would appropriately span all the years that he has been a candidate for President. It would also help answer outstanding questions raised by the one return he has released to date, such as the range in the effective rates paid, the foreign accounts maintained, the foreign investments made, and the types of tax shelters used," Messina wrote.
Romney has consistently maintained that he would not release additional returns because he does not want to provide the Obama campaign new fodder for attacks. The pledge Messina made -- to stop any paid or press messaging asking him to release more returns -- does not rule out attacking the Republican presidential hopeful for any revelations from those new returns.
Romney shed some light on his recent financial situation Thursday, telling reporters that "over the past 10 years, I never paid less than 13%" of his total income in federal taxes.
"I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that," he said. "And if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20%."
In an interview with NBC that aired Thursday night, Ann Romney said the couple would release no additional returns.
"We have been very transparent to what’s legally required of us. But the more we release, the more we get attacked. The more we get questioned. The more we get pushed,” she said.
[Updated, 6:08 a.m., Aug. 17: Rhodes responded to Messina within hours, denying the request.
"It is clear that President Obama wants nothing more than to talk about Governor Romney's tax returns instead of the issues that matter to voters, like putting Americans back to work, fixing the economy and reining in spending," Rhodes wrote.
"If Governor Romney’s tax returns are the core message of your campaign, there will be ample time for President Obama to discuss them over the next 81 days. In the meantime, Governor Romney will continue to lay out his plans for a stronger middle class, to save Medicare, to put work back into welfare, and help the 23 million Americans struggling to find work in the Obama economy."
The letter ened: "See you in Denver," the city hosting the first debate between the candidates.]