WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has what he says is an informed explanation for why Mitt Romney refuses to release additional tax returns. According a Bain investor, Reid charged, Romney didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Huffington Post from his office on Capitol Hill, Reid saved some of his toughest words for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Romney couldn’t make it through a Senate confirmation process as a mere Cabinet nominee, the majority leader insisted, owing to the opaqueness of his personal finances.
“His poor father must be so embarrassed about his son,” Reid said, in reference to George Romney’s standard-setting decision to turn over 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in the late 1960s.
Saying he had “no problem with somebody being really, really wealthy,” Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.
“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.
“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?
“You guys have said his wealth is $250 million,” Reid went on. “Not a chance in the world. It’s a lot more than that. I mean, you do pretty well if you don’t pay taxes for 10 years when you’re making millions and millions of dollars.”
But there is limited political downside to the type of open speculation that Reid is making, so long as Romney refuses to budge on the issue of his tax returns. Increasingly, other Democrats are growing more assertive in their goading. In an appearance at the Center for American Progress on Tuesday, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland argued that he could openly speculate as to whether Romney “is a tax avoider” or “cheat” because “his behavior invites such speculation.”
Romney recently told ABC News that he couldn’t recall if there were years when he paid below the 13.9 percent tax rate that he paid in 2010. Although he said he was “happy to go back and look,” his campaign declined to do just that.
“We feel comfortable in the Senate,” he said. “Where the problem is, is this: Because of the Citizens United decision, Karl Rove and the Republicans are looking forward to a breakfast the day after the election. They are going to assemble 17 angry old white men for breakfast, some of them will slobber in their food, some will have scrambled eggs, some will have oatmeal, their teeth are gone. But these 17 angry old white men will say, ‘Hey, we just bought America. Wasn’t so bad. We still have a whole lot of money left.’”
“So that’s the only problem we have with our candidates,” Reid concluded, suggesting that virtually everything, his leadership position included, could be swept away by outside cash.