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Richard Adams in Washington DC, Friday 21st September 2012 22:40
The Romney campaign has released Mitt and Ann Romney's 2011 tax returns, along with a summary by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers of his overall taxes between 1990 and 2009, and medical statements from the doctors of Romney and Paul Ryan.
Here's a summary of the details:
• In 2011 the Romneys paid nearly $2m in taxes on declared income of $13.6m, mainly from investment income
• The Romneys' effective tax rate in 2011 was 14.1%, and the couple donated $4m to charity in 2011
• An administrator of the Romney blind trusts said the couple only claimed tax deductions on part of their charitable donations. Claiming the full deduction would have lowered Romney's effective tax rate below 13%
• Mitt Romney's doctor gave him a clean bill of health, although his almost fulsome praise of Romney's condition inspired ridicule
• The accompanying letter from PwC declared that the Romneys paid an effective tax rate of 20% between 1990 and 2009, although that was calculated by averaging each year's rate rather than total tax payments and income
• "Each year during the period there were federal and state taxes owed," PwC stated – which appears to squash claims that Romney paid no income tax at some point during the period
• The lowest tax rate that Romney paid in the 1990-2009 period was 13%, according to PwC
• In response, the Obama campaign said the letter "continues to mask Romney's true wealth and income from Bain Capital"
Looking through the 2011 tax returns about the only thing worth mentioning so far - apart from 50 pages on investments in the Cayman Islands (ok, 28 pages) - is the deduction for $39 the Romney's made for "casualty or theft".
Oddly, two of the Romney's blind trusts also have casualty or theft deductions that amount to $39.
The Atlantic very quickly offers the world: A Vigorous Man: A Poem Composed of Excerpts From Mitt Romney’s Doctor’s Note.
It seems the plane carrying Ann Romney has had to make an emergency landing just now after it filled with smoke. It landed in Colorado and everyone is fine, apparently.
Another thing these returns make plain: Mitt Romney is wealthy. But we knew that. But how wealthy?
The Wall Street Journal is burrowing through Romney's 2011 tax returns – and they are very long indeed.
Reflecting the complexity of Governor and Mrs Romney’s investments, the pair reported $3.5m in foreign income. They also filed various forms reflecting holdings in a multitude of locales, including Switzerland, Ireland, Germany and the Cayman Islands. In total, the Romneys’ main tax return mentioned entities based in the Cayman Islands on at least 28 separate pages.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent looks at what the letter from accountants PwC does and doesn't tell us about how much Mitt Romney has paid in taxes in the years 1990-2009.
The Romney campaign tells Sargent that to arrive at the 20% it says Romney paid in those years, PwC merely averaged all the effective tax rates he paid in each year. But that doesn't actually give us how much he paid in total as a percentage of his overall income:
If Romney paid his lowest rates in a number of the higher income years, the overall 20% figure would overstate the rate he actually paid over the whole period.
One thing we have learned: Mitt Romney's doctor thinks he's awesome.
This is an over-statement. But not by much.
Meanwhile, here's Paul Ryan being booed and jeered at the AARP today.
Paul Ryan's doctor's note isn't any more fun, and it's rather more bland, being from the Congressional doctor's office at the Capitol. The only mildly interesting part is this:
You have undergone annual physical examinations and health maintenance at my office since being elected to Congress at the age of 28.
Yes that's right. Paul Ryan has basically been in Washington all his adult life. He's a career politician.
The Romney campaign website has whirred back into life after Mitt bought Amazon.com by writing a personal check and pointing all its servers at www.mittromney.com/disclosure.
I've read the doctor's note on Mitt Romney and other than suspecting a mild man-crush on the part of Randall D Gaz, PhD – "Mitt Romney ... is a healthy appearing, strong, physically fit male. He appears years younger than his age.... He is a vigorous man ... has reserves of strength, energy and stamina..." – it's very dull. Romney takes Lipitor and he has a penicillin allergy. That's it.
The Wall Street Journal's Sara Murray notes of the deliberate over-payment of taxes by Mitt Romney:
Interesting observation: Mitt Romney paid more in taxes than he was legally required to in 2011 – something he once said would disqualify him for the presidency.
“I've paid all the taxes required by law,” Mr Romney said in an interview with ABC News in July. “I don't pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don't think I'd be qualified to become president. I'd think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.”
Pants on fire! Why does Mitt Romney even say stuff like this: "Frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don't think I'd be qualified to become president."
As for Mitt Romney's 2011 tax returns and the letter and the doctor's note excusing Mitt from games - well, guess what? The Romney campaign web servers have gone down from the overload.
While all this new Mitt Romney tax detail is very interesting - and let's assume it's all true since it almost certainly is - it still raises the question: why not publish all Romney's tax returns from 1990-2009 and have done with it?
Because nothing quite says "I've got something to hide" like hiding something.
With Mitt Romney's 2011 tax returns being published, there's a lot of exegesis going on. Here's one such, via nysouthpaw:
The reference is to the notes posted by Brad Malt, a trustee of the Romney’s blind trust. The point leaves open the possibility that Romney underpaid tax in one or more years, and then later paid back-taxes during the period. So for example: big losses in 2008 because of the economic tsunami, a big tax credit in 2009, and paying back-taxes in 2010?
Here's something you don't see often. If at all. The Wall Street Journal is "live auditing" Mitt Romney's tax return:
One surprise: the Romneys’ actual income and tax for last year appears to be significantly lower than the campaign estimated earlier in the year. Back in January, the campaign said the Romneys would pay $3.23m in federal tax on $20.9m in total income. But the final return shows that they paid $1.9m in tax on income of $13.7m for 2011
Is there no end to the news-worthy gifts the Romney campaign is giving us today? It seems not:
Finally, in addition to new documents related to tax filings, the campaign will also be posting on the same website physician letters for both Governor Romney and Representative Ryan, making public their current state of health.
What's the betting here? That Mitt once blew a year's worth of Bain bonuses on a bionic kidney?
The top line on Mitt Romney's 2011 tax return is that he and Ann - they file jointly - paid $1,935,708 in taxes on $13,696,951 of "mostly investment income", with an effective tax rate of 14.1%.
And they donated $4m to charity in 2011, and claimed a deduction for $2.25m from those charitable contributions. Very good. But wait, there's this note:
The Romneys’ generous charitable donations in 2011 would have significantly reduced their tax obligation for the year. The Romneys thus limited their deduction of charitable contributions to conform to the Governor's statement in August, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years.
So Mitt Romney under-claimed his charity tax break so as to avoid making himself a liar? In other words, had he claimed the full whack, his effective tax rate would have dipped under 13%. How ... odd.
Mitt once said: "I pay all the taxes owed and not a penny more." Except when massaging his effective tax rate, of course, as he didn't say.
This brings to mind a story about the tycoon Robert Maxwell while he was a British MP. Appointed head of the Commons catering committee, Maxwell was desperate to show off his business acumen by turning around Parliament's loss-making bars. He was reputedly seen one night actually stuffing notes into the cash registers.
More on the Romney tax rates, as released by the Romney campaign:
Regarding the PWC letter covering the Romneys’ tax filings over 20 years, from 1990 – 2009:
• In each year during the entire 20-year period, the Romneys owed both state and federal income taxes.
• Over the entire 20-year period, the average annual effective federal tax rate was 20.20%.
• Over the entire 20-year period, the lowest annual effective federal personal tax rate was 13.66%.
• Over the entire 20-year period, the Romneys gave to charity an average of 13.45% of their adjusted gross income.
• Over the entire 20-year period, the total federal and state taxes owed plus the total charitable donations deducted represented 38.49% of total AGI.
During the 20-year period covered by the PWC letter, Governor and Mrs Romney paid 100 percent of the taxes that they owed.
We're all trying to figure out what this all means: but it does put to rest the claim put about by Senator Harry Reid, among others, that somewhere in Romney's tax years there was something worth hiding. Reid claimed a source told him that, in one year, Romney had paid no income tax. That appears to be false.
I do like the "Governor and Mrs Romney paid 100% of the taxes that they owed" line. That covers a multitude of sins.
Mitt Romney will today release the second of the two year's worth of tax records that he plans to make public. This will be the most latest, for 2011. From Romney's campaign:
This morning, Governor and Mrs Romney filed their 2011 tax return with the IRS. At 3pm today, the Romney for President campaign will be posting the 2011 return online.
The complete 2011 tax return, with full schedules, statements, and attachments, will be made available with all other previously-disclosed information at www.mittromney.com/disclosure.
And 3pm on a Friday afternoon, that's like political news primetime. But what's this next thing?
Also posted will be a notarized letter from the Romneys’ tax preparer, PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP (PWC), giving a summary of tax rates from the Romneys’ tax returns for the 20-year period of 1990-2009.
Oh that last letter sounds most interesting.
For some reason, senior citizens didn't take kindly to young master Paul Ryan turning up at their AARP conference in New Orleans and blithely assuring them that he was going to slash the programmes they benefit from for their own good and the good of the nation.
Ryan' speech was punctuated by booing and jeers, and some applause at times. "I had a feeling there would be mixed reactions," he says diplomatically after one round of boos. But that just led to more.
Here's the transcript:
Today, our nation faces a political turning point.... Seniors are threatened by Obamacare, a law that would force deep cuts to real benefits in real time for real people.
It went downhill from there:
The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare because it represents the worst of both worlds.
I had a feeling there would be mixed reactions, so let me get into it. It weakens Medicare for today's seniors and puts it at risk for the next generation.
First, it funnels $716 billion out of Medicare to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for.
Second, it puts 15 unelected bureaucrats in charge of Medicare's future.
Let's talk about each one of these in turn. You may not have heard this side of the story.
By now you've probably heard a lot of claims and counter-claims about the president's raid on Medicare. The president said that this would actually strengthen the program. He said it would improve the program's solvency.
Ladies and gentlemen, that's just not true. The money wasn't walled off to stay in Medicare. Instead, the law turned Medicare into a piggy bank for Obamacare.
Another policy and presentation triumph by the Romney campaign there. No wonder Mitt turned down the invitation.
On the other hand, Paul Ryan's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 is going well. Smart.
The Associated Press reports on Paul Ryan's hostile reception:
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan drew boos and shouts of "no" — but also scattered applause — when he insisted during an address to the AARP that the Obama-backed healthcare law harms Medicare.
Earlier, in a video address, Obama had set the stage for Ryan's appearance by criticizing Ryan's call for a voucher program that will hurt future Medicare recipients.
Before that, AARP's CEO Barry Rand had told the crowd of more than 4,000 that the organization is nonpartisan. However, he also stressed the AARP's support of the Affordable Care Act, saying it won't harm guaranteed Medicare benefits.
So that was a smart move, Paul Ryan.
Barack Obama, meanwhile, held a big rally in the key state of Virginia, in which he responded to Mitt Romney's attacks on his unfortunate "You can't change Washington from the inside" remarks yesterday.
Here's what Romney said in Florida:
[Obama] says that he can't change Washington from the inside. Well, I will. I'll get the job done.
And here's Obama's zinger of a riposte today:
For some reason my opponent got really excited. He even re-wrote his speech real quick. He stood up at a rally and proudly declared: "I'll get the job done from the inside." What kind of inside job is he talking about?
Video via Buzzfeed Politics of Obama's speech today:
It sounds like Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has got a rocky reception at the AARP conference he's speaking at right now.
The AARP used to be known as the American Association of Retired Persons but now it's just the AARP and anyone over 50 can join.
Mitt Romney, presidential attack dog, speaking at a fundraising event in Florida last night, according to a verbatim transcript:
I couldn't believe it when I heard it today. Or I heard about it, I didn't actually hear about his own voice but I heard it from the reports. They came out of it said that the President of the United States says he can't change Washington from the inside. Isn't that amazing?
In his debate closing statement, Todd Akin waxes lyrical, or as lyrical as he can, which isn't very much.
Sample Akin: "America is an absolutely unique country". Yes but so are Lithuania, Peru and Vanuatu. "We fought two world wars and we annexed no territories," claims Akin, for reasons only known to himself.
McCaskill stresses her moderate credentials. But the line of the day goes to the libertarian candidate Dine:
I promise to keep the Republicans out of your bedroom and the Democrats out of your wallet.
No slam dunks on either side here, sadly. Akin is an experienced politician (believe it or not) so he did what he had to do, even if he's no orator. Lots of talk about freedom from Washington DC from him, but the questioning didn't push much on the subject of abortion after the opening minutes.
McCaskill made sure people got the message that Akin was part of the problem in Washington, although she didn't exactly set the hall on fire. Or even raise the ambient temperature much.
From the mouth of Todd Akin, here you go, one for the Gaffe Giraffe:
I'm running for the Senate because the Senate doesn't get anything done.
I should also mention that there is a libertarian third party candidate, Jonathan Dine, also in this debate. He's a former personal trainer. But offered the chance to answer a question about the budget deficit, he demurs. Eh?
Meanwhile, there's a debate going on between the charming Todd "legitimate rape" Akin and Senator Claire McCaskill in Columbia, Missouri. There's a live stream here.
McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent, laid into Akin right off the bat:
This election's going to be quite a contrast for Missourians - but not because we’re at opposite ends [of the political spectrum]. I’m right in the middle. It’s just he’s so far out on the fringe. And that’s where the contrast comes in.
The first question is, naturally, on Akin's "legitimate rape" comments. Akin wasn't at all keen to talk about it, saying he'd apologised and hey, let's move on. McCaskill ants to linger on the subject:
I think Rep Akin's comments opened the window to his views... he has apologized, but they say a lot about how he views things.
So far McCaskill has referred to Harry Truman – the former US president who came from Missouri – spinning in his grave three times already.
Everything else aside, here's the key fact about the election campaign in August, via the LA Times/Chicago Tribune's Melanie Mason:
So Obama spent as much as advertising as Mitt spent on his whole campaign in total, including bonuses to staff. Wow.
The Los Angeles Times has an excellent analysis of the different spending strategies of the two campaigns, and how Mitt Romney came to be spending so much last month.
But can you see the shades of Bain Capital in here?
Romney, meanwhile, diverted substantial resources into raising more money, spending $11.5m on direct mail and $2.3m on telemarketing and data management. An additional $8.4m went to online ads, digital consulting and website development. About $4m was categorized as consulting costs, much of which went to firms run by senior Romney advisors.
On top of that, the campaign spent more than $4m on payroll in August – including at least $207,000 in extra payments on August 31 to nine top staffers, including $25,000 to campaign manager Matt Rhoades and $25,000 to communications director Gail Gitcho.
What all these millions mean for the campaigns is explained by the New York Times, and why the new figures undermine the claims of financial advantage that Mitt Romney boasted over the summer:
While Mr Romney’s combined fund-raising apparatus began September with $168.5m in cash, much of it was sitting in the accounts of the Republican National Committee, which reported cash on hand of about $76.6m. While an estimated $42m remains in his joint account with Republican Party committees, only some of it will be available to Mr. Romney for his general election campaign.
Mr Obama and the Democrats, by contrast, began the fall campaign with less money over all, about $125m. But federal law guarantees candidates, not parties, the lowest available ad rate in the days leading up to a general election. Thanks in part to his army of small donors, Mr Obama gathered more money in his own campaign account than Mr Romney, whose advantage lies in raising large checks that primarily benefit the RNC.
For detail on the comparative fundraising and spending totals revealed by the latest FEC figures, here's a digest of what we know so far:
• Barack Obama has around $88m to spend for the presidential campaign, giving him a sizable cash-on-hand advantage over Mitt Romney
• Romney has $50m available to him by the same measure. But he also owes $15m outstanding on a $20m loan taken out in August, leaving him with just $35m
• Obama filed monthly accounts on Thursday with the Federal Election Commission showing his campaign spent more than $83m in August. Romney spent more than $66 million in the same period
• Romney raised about $67m in August to Obama's $85m. Totals reported earlier for Romney are now known to include the $20m loan, which artificially boosted his total to $87m
• Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised about $114m in August. Combined cash on hand for Obama and the Democratic national committee is nearly $125m
• Romney and the Republican party raised more than $111m combined in August
In an election that was meant to be all about the money, a fascinating twist emerges from the latest official figures showing that Mitt Romney's vaunted fundraising machine has gone off the rails.
The new figures from the the Federal Election Commission reveal that Romney's campaign has spent money more quickly and raised less than previously thought, bringing into questions months of boasting from Romney's headquarters about their warchest.
Instead it appears that the Obama campaign has $88m to spend, in contrast to the $55m in the Romney account – although the totals are complicated by the party and super pac totals.
The details come as Romney seized on remarks by Barack Obama during an interview yesterday that "You can't change Washington from the inside," to buoy up the Romney campaign's flagging efforts.
Meanwhile, the drip-feed of polling data shows a ixed picture and overall a close race between the rival presidential candidates, although most polls tend to show Obama in the lead, albeit narrowly.