Ever since he drew a multimillionaire opponent in 2002, Gov. Rick Perry has been releasing his tax returns to the media and has called on his rivals to do the same.
He’s at it again.
On Tuesday, a few days after Perry released his 2010 tax return, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said it was time for multimillionaire Mitt Romney, whose wealth has been estimated at $190 million to $250 million, to disclose his tax records. Romney has so far refused.
“Gov. Perry has always released his tax returns and Mitt Romney should do the same,” said Miner, whose demands first appeared in Politico on Tuesday morning.
An independent Democratic group supporting President Obama also chimed in, saying on its website that Romney should disclose his tax records to show whether or not he’s paying his fair share.
“Romney should release his tax returns immediately, before he has time to polish them up for politics,” said Bill Burton, a former White House spokesman who now heads the Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA. “He must be honest with the American people about how much he and his wealthy friends benefit from a tax system that puts an overwhelming burden on hard working Americans.”
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said the Romney campaign would “look at the question of releasing tax returns during the next tax filing season.”
Williams added: “The Perry campaign is in no position to lecture anyone on disclosure. They have been stonewalling on releasing the most basic records involving taxpayer-funded spending in Texas as it relates to Governor Perry’s travel records. Governor Perry should immediately release these public documents.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety, citing safety concerns, has declined to release detailed records about the cost of providing Perry’s security while he’s traveling around the country running for president.
Perry first made the release of tax returns a big issue in 2002, when he was running against wealthy Laredo businessman Tony Sanchez. Perry released his tax returns going back a decade, and has since disclosed returns dating to the late 1980s.
A March 2002 press release, quoting then-Perry campaign manager Deirdre Delisi, said Texans “deserve to know the financial history of the men and women who seek to represent them.” Delisi is now policy director for Perry’s presidential campaign.
At the time Sanchez shot back with allegations that Perry had failed to disclose conflicts of interest in his business dealings and had used his political connections to turn a buck in real estate and the stock market, an accusation that rivals still use during election years. Perry has said repeatedly that all of his business transactions were above board.
In the end, Perry used the tax return issue to his advantage because Sanchez, whose wealth had been estimated at $600 million or more, released partial returns but had resisted disclosing the complete records. Even though no law requires the release of tax returns, Perry deftly used the disclosure of his records to put his opponents on the defensive.
Perry made an even bigger issue about the disclosure of tax returns in 2010, famously refusing to debate his Democratic opponent Bill White because the former Houston mayor had not released as many years’ worth of tax returns as the governor thought he should. White released his complete tax records for 2004-08, the years in which he had served as mayor.
While Perry was the clear favorite in the 2010 race, he's struggling now. And while his uneven performances over five presidential debates have hurt him, Jim Henson, a political scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, said Perry would have a hard time using Romney’s refusal to release tax returns to get out of future debates.
“I just can’t imagine it flying at the national level,” Henson said. “We were a little surprised it worked here. I think there’s no way they could go that direction.”