National Review, more conservatives call for Romney to release returns

[Updated below with a link to Mitt Romney’s 2010 return.]

An editorial posted yesterday afternoon on the website of the venerable conservative magazine National Review has joined the bipartisan chorus calling on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to release his income tax returns for more than just the last two years. One paragraph reads,

The Romney campaign says he has released as many returns as candidate John Kerry did in 2004, and cites Teresa Heinz Kerry’s refusal to release any of her tax returns. Neither is an apt comparison. John Kerry actually released returns from 1999 through 2003, and also released tax returns during his Senate runs. As for Teresa Heinz, Romney isn’t the wealthy spouse of a candidate, but the candidate himself. In 2008, John McCain released two years of returns, but he had been filling out financial disclosure forms for decades as a senator. Romney protests that he is not legally obliged to release any tax returns. Of course not. He is no longer in the realm of the private sector, though, where he can comply with the letter of the law with the Securities and Exchange Commission and leave it at that. Perceptions matter.

That’s a good point about John McCain that I hadn’t see made before. I’d add that I’ve never seen anything to suggest that John McCain might have funds in a Swiss bank, a Cayman Islands corporation, or other overseas locations sometimes associated with questionable tax strategies, so there is less reason to be curious about McCain’s returns.

In addition, two prominent Texas Republicans who ran against Romney in the primaries, Governor Rick Perry and Representative Ron Paul called for greater openness.php?ref=fpb”>Governor Perry’s comment was a general one not specifically directed at Romney, though he pointed out that he and other candidates had released multiple years’ worth of tax history. Representative Paul was explicit in saying Romney should be more forthcoming.

Besides National Review, Perry, and Paul, others calling for Romney to release more returns (in a few cases not mentioning Romney by name) include former Republican National Committee head Michael Steele, conservative strategists and commentators John Weaver, Ana Navarro, Bill Kristol, and George Will, political consultant Matt Dowd (chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign), Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, and former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

George Will and others have suggested that there must be something embarrassing (but probably not unlawful) in the returns not released, else Romney would already have produced them, but by no means all agree.

Incidentally, in 2010 Romney paid $2,976,345 in federal income tax. His taxable income — that is, the amount left over after adjustments, exemptions, and deductions — came to$17,120,067. That’s an effective tax rate of 17.4 percent. For comparison, I dug out my own latest income tax return (for 2011) and the comparable figure for me was 19.1 percent.