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Should Romney's faith keep his taxes out of the public eye?

August 23, 2012|By James Rainey
  • Mitt Romney's motorcade and campaign bus are parked in front of a church in Chillicothe, Ohio. The Republican says he hesitates to release more information about his finances because it would reveal how much he has given the Mormon Church. "It's a very personal thing."
Mitt Romney's motorcade and campaign bus are parked in front of a church… (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )

Mitt Romney believes that one of the “downsides” of releasing information about his finances — and presumably more than the two years of taxes he has been willing to reveal — is that it would reveal how much he has given to the Mormon Church, the presidential candidate said in an interview with Parade magazine.

Asked about tithing, the custom by which Mormons are expected to donate 10% of their income to the church, Ann Romney told the magazine: “I love tithing. When Mitt and I give that check, I actually cry.”

“So do I, but for a different reason,” Romney added, in an interview to be published this weekend. “Our church doesn't publish how much people have given. This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one's financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It's a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church.”

But based on the 2010 return he has already released and projections of his 2011 return, the public already knows that the Romneys gave more than $4 million directly to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church got more money from the couple in those years via the Tyler Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit they control.

Democrats and even many Republicans have urged Romney for months to put more of his returns before the public. But the candidate has said that the two years of returns — plus years of financial disclosure forms from his time as governor of Massachusetts — tell  voters all they need to know.

Ann Romney tried to close the door on the matter last month during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” saying she and her husband had provided all the information people need “to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life.” To share more, she said, would only open the door to more “attacks.”

It’s hard to imagine how the religious privacy argument is going to change many people’s minds. People know about the Romneys’ close ties to the LDS church. They want to see the additional returns to clear up some remaining questions— particularly about how the multimillionaire has invested his money and the tax rate he has paid, compared with average Americans.

Voters who want answers will ask why Romney’s relationship with God is so special that he has dispensation to reveal less than virtually every other presidential candidate in modern history.

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