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Democrats say Romney tax returns could clarify Bain departure date

July 13, 2012|By Alana Semuels
  • President Obama's and Mitt Romney's campaigns continued their battle over Bain Capital on Friday, with Democrats calling for the release of Romney's tax returns.
President Obama's and Mitt Romney's campaigns continued their… (Evan Vucci / AP File Photo )

Determined not to let a recent slate of attacks on Mitt Romney’s financial and job history slide quietly into the weekend, Democrats stepped up their attacks on Friday, again criticizing Romney for his failure to release his tax returns. Releasing the returns, Democrats say, would help evaluate the legitimacy of a Boston Globe story published Thursday that said Romney remained involved in managing Bain Capital after he left in 1999, a tidbit reporters got from SEC documents showing him as chairman in 2002.

"Either Mitt Romney misrepresented his tenure at Bain to the SEC or he misrepresented it to the voters of Massachusetts," said Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman, on Fox News. "If he released more documents, like further tax returns, we would know the extent of his involvement at Bain during this period. If he released board minutes, we'd know the extent of his involvement at Bain."

The Globe story, which contradicts Romney’s statements that he left Bain in 1999 to run the Olympics, was dismissed by the Romney campaign as inaccurate. Romney’s name appears on SEC documents after 1999 because his departure was sudden and formal transfer of ownership took several years, the campaign says. Bain added Thursday that Romney had no involvement with Bain after February 1999, an important distinction because Democrats are hoping to blame Romney for some of the job cuts implemented by Bain after Romney’s tenure there.

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, a respected – and purportedly neutral – site that checks the accuracy of allegations in campaigns, said that “we are standing with our assessment that Mitt Romney left the helm of Bain Capital in 1999, when he departed to run the Salt Lake City Olympics.”

The fact that Romney was listed on Bain SEC documents after 1999 does not mean that he had any formal role in running the company, and little other evidence exists showing his involvement.

Still, Democrats continue talking tax returns, as they have for much of the campaign. Former President Bill Clinton – who called Romney’s business career “sterling” last month, jumped into the fray on NBC News on Friday morning.

“I am a little surprised that he only released a year’s worth of tax returns,” Clinton said. “That’s kind of perplexed me. Because this is the first time in more than 30 years that anybody running for president has only done that.”

Typically, candidates released 10 or 11 years of returns, Clinton added. He also said he thought the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney’s overseas investment were a legitimate issue for voters to consider in the election.

The tax returns issue could prove a thorny one for Romney, who was booed at a GOP debate in South Carolina earlier this year after he equivocated on whether he would release the returns. His 2011 returns, released in January, showed that Romney and wife Ann paid $3 million in taxes in 2010 on $21.7 million in income, a tax rate of 13.9%, much lower than the 35% marginal rate.

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alana.semuels@latimes.com

Twitter: @alanasemuels

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