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Congressional leaders shy from releasing their own income tax returns

July 19, 2012|By Lisa Mascaro
  • House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) answers questions during her weekly news conference in Washington.
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) answers questions… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON – A top Democratic congressional leader said Mitt Romney’s reluctance to release a fuller accounting of his income tax returns makes him "the most secretive candidate for president in modern history," but other top members of Congress have showed little interest in personally being held to the same disclosure standard.

"That's my private business," said House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who ran a small business in plastics when he was first elected 20 years ago. He called the debate over Romney's personal income taxes a "sideshow."

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader who is among the wealthier members of Congress, gave a long explanation for not releasing her own tax returns, suggesting somewhat in jest that perhaps the members of the media should disclose their tax information.

"When I run for the president of the United States, you can hold me to the same standard," she said.

Romney has come under increased pressure from some members of his own party to disclose returns beyond those for 2010 and the current year that he already has made public. In recent presidential elections, nominees have released more than two years of returns.

Tax disclosure is a particularly hot topic this election year, as Congress is debating whether to continue tax breaks that expire in December or allow those for upper-income households to expire -- which would result in a tax hike on incomes above $250,000 a year for married couples, or $200,000 for singles.

Lawmakers are required to file annual disclosure statements about their personal wealth and financial holdings, but those reports are far less detailed or precise than federal income tax returns.

One top Democrat, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the assistant majority leader, said Romney must believe that his reluctance to release his returns is worth the political headache it is causing.

"He is the most secretive candidate for president in modern history," Durbin said.

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