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News from the Votemaster

Romney Again Refuses to Release More Tax Returns

Once again, Mitt Romney has rejected calls to meet the "Romney standard" and release 12 years of tax returns, as his father did when running for President in 1968. All that does is increase speculation about what is in them and make the Democrats bolder about doing some of that speculating out loud. For example, yesterday, Maryland governor Martin O'Malley quipped that in 2008 John McCain saw 23 years of Romney's tax returns and then picked Sarah Palin.

What could be in there that Romney is willing to take withering fire for the next 4 months rather than release them? Undoubtedly he made a lot of money, but everyone knows he is rich and that in itself is something he could be proud of. Romney is a numbers guy and has no doubt very carefully weighed the pluses and minuses of disclosure and decided that giving the Democrats a major new line of attack is worth it. (Camera pulls back from a palm tree revealing a lovely beach with only one couple on it. Voiceover: the Cayman Islands are a wonderful destination if you want some privacy, especially if you have things you want to hide from the IRS ...) What could be in his returns that is so deadly? One possibility is that he paid little or no income tax on a very high income for many years and did it legally. This would give the Democrats an opening to make a pitch for fairness so the very rich also have to pay taxes. When Romney then said that everything he did was legal, Obama would counter that the law needs to be changed so it isn't legal any more. It is a powerful argument.

Another, but less likely, reason is the question of when precisely Romney left Bain Capital. He says it was in 1999, but he signed SEC filings as Bain CEO as late as 2001. If his tax returns show him drawing salary income from Bain in 2001, it undercuts his story that he left Bain in 1999. This 2 or 3 year period is important because between 1999 and 2002, Bain was very active in buying companies and then outsourcing jobs overseas. Romney's position is that this happened after he left the company. If his tax returns show he was running Bain in 2001, he is not only caught with a lie, but has to explain the outsourcing.

Also possible is that his tax returns show large numbers of shell companies, trusts, and other arrangements all designed to minimize his tax bill. This would (1) project the image of a man who was obsessed with reducing his taxes and (2) would give reporters lots of leads to go snooping. Surely there are reporters who would accept the assignment to go to the Cayman Islands or Bermuda with $1000 in cash to offer secretaries or clerks in return for a peek at some documents while the secretary or clerk took a lengthy lunch break.

Americans don't mind wealthy Presidents. Here is a list of the 10 richest Presidents.

Rank President Net worth Source
1 George Washington $525 million Thought to have owned 60,000 acres, much of which from his wife
2 Thomas Jefferson $212 million Inherited a 5000-acre plantation and married a rich widow
3 John Kennedy $125 million Inherited from his tycoon father
4 Theodore Roosevelt $125 million Inherited great wealth
5 Andrew Jackson $119 million Made money as a lawyer and land speculator plus married rich wife
6 James Madison $101 million Owned 5000-acre tobacco plantation
7 Lyndon Johnson $98 million For years, owned the only TV station in Austin, TX
8 Herbert Hoover $75 million Made a fortune as mining engineer and businessman
9 Franklin D. Roosevelt $60 million Only child of a wealthy family
10 John Tyler $51 million Inherited a 1000-acre plantation plus had a rich wife

The Presidents given in blue were Democrats (or Democratic-Republicans as they used to be called). The red ones were Republicans. Washington thought political parties, which he called "factions," were a bad idea. Tyler was a Whig when became President after William Henry Harrison's death a month into office, but soon rejected everything the Whigs stood for, whatever that was. Noteworthy is the fact that quite a few of the richest President got a substantial part of their money by marrying wealthy women.

Romney would probably be the second richest President and certainly the richest ever in terms of liquid assets. While Washington and his wife owned a vast amount of valuable land, Washington didn't actually have so much cash. But look carefully at the list. Some of our most respected Presidents are on it. Why doesn't Romney release his tax returns and put this list on his Website to remind everyone that some of our greatest Presidents have been extremely wealthy? Undoubtedly there is something very damaging in those returns and the speculation is only going to get louder.

Boomlet for Condoleezza Rice as Veep Continues

There have been a number of news stories about Condoleezza Rice as Romney's running mate. On the plus side, she is a very experienced black woman would probably bring in a lot of votes from women and independents. On the minus side, she would completely overshadow Romney and would instantly make the campaign about her role in starting the war in Iraq. But more important than any of this is that she is pro choice. That is a complete nonstarter with Romney's base. Romney himself used to be pro choice, but has painfully managed to convince his supporters that he has been cleansed of this heresy. Picking a pro-choice Veep would be the end of him. He understands this very well. If Rice were pro life, she might be a serious candidate.

Back in the real world of politics, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) stayed right on message by blasting Obama on the economy, saying: "This week, 13 million Americans won't go to work, not because they're on vacation, but because they can't find jobs." With Portman on the hustings, Romney knows he would have a running mate who will keep attacking Obama on the jobs issue and is even more boring them himself, so he would not overshadow Romney. Rice is a superstar and the media would go wild about her ("Palin with brains"). Also, Portman hails from a key swing state, Ohio, whereas Rice was born in Alabama and now lives in California, where she is a professor at Stanford University. Neither of these are going to be competitive.

Senators McCain and Kyl Endorse Flake in Arizona Primary

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the establishment candidate running for the Republican senatorial nomination to replace the retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), was endorsed by both the state's senators, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Kyl himself. Flake is in an unexpectedly tough primary with a wealthy businessman and tea party supporter, Wil Cardon. Usually, endorsements don't mean a lot, especially with tea party supporters, but Flake will take whatever he can get in this tough race.