BIG UPDATE! At the very end of her show tonight, Rachel offered this tantalizing teaser about the story she will be opening Friday night's show with. You might want to tune in tomorrow night and watch. Here's what Rachel said:In her opening segment Wednesday night, which was titled "You're going to have to take my word for it," Rachel Maddow delivered a scathing indictment of the veracity of Mitt Romney's ability to tell the truth, about anything, but especially his income taxes. After watching this report where the words "retroactive" or "retroactively" were used ten times, and not in relationship to Romney's retroactive retirement from Bain Capital, one is left with the impression that the word "radioactive" would be a more appropriate description of Romney's campaign to become the President of the United States.
The matter of what is in Mr. Romney's tax returns, and what he says is in his tax returns, turned into a white hot political fight today. We have found some tape in the archives that may take this fight in a whole new direction, as of tomorrow. We have got that tape that I think nobody has seen in at least a decade, and we've got that story as our lead tomorrow night. We've got incredible tape tomorrow night. Please be here. Same bat time, same bat channel.You've been notified. I hope this is something really good going into the weekend.
This is the most damning 18 minutes of video on Romney's ability to tell the truth I've seen to date. If you can't watch the video (embedded at end of diary) online, and you missed the show, I have transcribed every word. Please share this with anybody you can think of. After watching it, you too will be wondering, who the heck in the Republican Party vetted Mitt Romney and concluded that he is qualified to be President of the United States? I guarantee that if you thought Romney's income tax issue would eventually go away, after watching (or reading) this report, you'll think otherwise. If you do watch the video, be sure to pay attention to all the clips of Romney while he was running for Governor. Compare how much more casual and animated he seems in those clips to the way he appears today.
You can tell that Rachel was looking forward to presenting this segment because she was laughing when she started speaking.
All right. President Obama spent (laughing) the full day today, campaigning in the great State of Ohio, the great swing State of Ohio, not incidentally. While he was there today, Mr. Obama unveiled what looks to be a new phase, a new really pointed attack on his opponent this November. Watch!Okay, Rachel. I've already seen this video several times today. What's your take on it?
Video of President Obama speaking: The centerpiece of my opponent's entire economic plan, is not only to extend the Bush Tax Cuts, but to add a new five trillion dollar tax cut on top of that [Boos from audience]. The bulk of this would go to the wealthiest Americans [Splice in tape]. What this means is the average middle class family with children will be hit with a tax increase of more than $2,000 [Splice in tape]. Let me make sure people understand this. They're asking you to pay an extra $2,000, not to pay down the deficit, not to invest in our kids education. Mr. Romney is asking you to pay more, so that people like him get a tax cut.
[Romney's] asking you to pay an extra two grand so that people like him can get a tax cut. He's doing it for himself. This is a pointed new development in the campaign and it hits on two important things. Everybody keeps saying, you know, the Republicans want to run on the economy and the Democrats want to run on something else. I think that the Democrats want to run on the economy too.Wait a minute! That's Romney's entire campaign strategy. Talk about the economy and nothing but the economy. Make this election a referendum on President Obama. You think that President Obama wants to campaign on the economy?
And the two things that they're hitting on is this. One is the economic plan that Mr. Romney is proposing. A brand new analysis out today, which does echo consistent analysis all along, shows that what Mr. Romney is offering, which is what Congressional Republicans are offering as well, is in effect a package of huge economic benefits for the wealthiest Americans. One that would actually make things harder economically for the vast majority of people, for the middle class. That sort of tax plan. That's sort of an anti-populist economic plan, that's bad for most people, but good for the rich people. I mean that could be a real political liability, even in the best of times.Okay, I saw that today in the video you just showed of President Obama making that case. What's number two?
But in bad economic times when already the only people doing well are the wealthy, being able to describe a candidate's tax plan like that is essentially a political shiv you can use against them. The twist to that knife right now, is the personal part of it. This is the new development in this part of the campaign. Beyond the question of whether Mr. Romney's economic proposals in fact will help wealthy people like him, essentially as a class.Okay, you've got my attention. Romney pays more taxes than the rest of us. Doesn't he?
There's also now, the specific personal question of how much his economic plan would help him. Him, Mitt Romney, as an individual. Someone who lives, we all know lives, in a different tax universe than most of the rest of us.Say what? The same exact thing happened ten years ago? No way. If he ran into this problem ten years ago, surely he would have fixed the problem by now. Right?
Video of ABC News Report: ABC News’ David Muir: We know that there was one year that you payed about a 13.9% tax rate. Can we clear this up by asking you a simple, yes or no question. Was there ever any year where you paid lower than the 13.9%?Happy to go back and look. That was this past Sunday on ABC. There has still been no word from Mr. Romney on whether he went back and looked.
Mitt Romney: I haven’t calculated that. I’m happy to go back and look.
Video of ABC News Report: ABC News reached out to the campaign today after Romney's answer. A spokesperson would only reiterate, "Mitt Romney has paid his taxes in full compliance with U.S. Law, and he has paid 100 percent of what he has owed." [Gail Gitcho, Communications Director]So, still no answer. That was Monday on ABC. Two days later now on Wednesday, Mr. Romney still apparently has not given them the information that he said he was going to give them. Remember, when he said he was "happy to go back and look" the question he was asked was whether he ever paid less than the 13.9% tax rate we know he paid in the one year for which he has released tax returns. Here's the weird thing, though. This "I'll go back and look" and then not actually going back and looking. This exact same thing happened to Mitt Romney a decade ago. Ten years ago.
Asked by The Boston Globe when he was running for Governor of Massachusetts, about why he listed himself as a Utah resident, and not a Massachusetts resident, on his taxes, Mr. Romney told The Globe ten years ago, just like he told ABC this week, that he would look into it. He would find out just exactly what was in his taxes and he would get back to them on it. Quoting from the The Globe, ...asked whether he received any advantages in Utah by filing as a full-time resident there in 1999 and 2000, Mr Romney said he was not sure but would respond to specific questions in writing. "If you want to say, 'was there any tax benefit anywhere,' you ought to help me understand exactly what that would mean, and I'd be happy to look at it," Romney said. "I will get precisely the answer that you'd like, but you have to tell me exactly what you want, and I'll make sure I get that for you." Still quoting from the The Globe here. But after a reporter submitted written questions to a campaign aide, Romney's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said that Romney would not be responding because "he values his privacy and his wife's privacy." [See TAX BENEFIT UNCLEAR AND CANDIDATE MUM (Pay-To-View)]Okay, so Romney as candidate for Governor said that he had been filing his taxes as a resident of Massachusetts the entire time that he was in Utah running the Olympics. Come on? He went to Utah on a temporary basis to save the Olympics. Surely, he was still a resident of Massachusetts. I mean, if a soldier goes overseas to fight in a war, he's still considered a resident of his state, right?
What The Boston Globe was trying to get to there, ten years ago, was whether or not Mitt Romney was qualified to be the Governor of Massachusetts. Not in some abstract political sense, but literally qualified. Whether he met the written qualifications that you have to meet in order to be allowed to run for Governor of Massachusetts. Massachusetts has the oldest, functioning written constitution ... in the entire world. And dating back to the colonial era, the law in Massachusetts says that you have to be a continuous inhabitant of Massachusetts for the seven years immediately prior to your running for Governor, or you can not run for Governor.
In 2002 when Mitt Romney moved back to Massachusetts from Utah to run for Governor in Massachusetts, that residency requirement was really a big problem for him. He maintained publicly until June of that year when he was running, that he had always paid taxes as a Massachusetts resident, so that residency requirement was going to be no problem.
Clearly he met the residency requirement, he'd been paying Massachusetts resident taxes. That's what he said all along, but that June, that year that he was running, June 2002, under pressure from the Democrats in the state and under scrutiny from the Boston press, that story fell apart because it turns out that he had not been paying taxes as a Massachusetts resident. Like he said he did. He had not been paying taxes as a Massachusetts resident, he had been paying taxes as a Utah resident.Wait a minute? Retroactively? I've heard that words used in relation to Romney before. Didn't he recently claim to have retroactively retired from Bain Capital? Does Romney live his entire life, retroactively?
Mr. Romney had said that wasn't the case, but he got caught. After he got caught, he admitted yeah, he'd been paying taxes as a Utah resident, BUT he was retroactively now, after the fact, now that he was running for Governor, now going back a few years that he was going to change that ... retroactively. [See Massachusetts Candidate Confirms Utah as Residence, The New York Times, June 7 2002]
But it was a huge mess. I mean, Mr. Romney had told a local newspaper reporter in Utah that he had declared Utah his primary residence for tax purposes. He had claimed a giant, permanent resident of Utah tax credit on his big Utah house out there. He saved $54,000 in taxes by doing that. He had signed multiple years of tax returns as a "part-time only" or "non-resident" of Massachusetts. But, all of that, he said ... How are you going to explain having done all that? He said it was all other people's mistakes. The reporter that he talked to in 2000 who noted that Mr. Romney had declared his Utah home his primary residence [see Is governor's mansion in Romney's future?, The Deseret News, April 11, 2000].Wait a minute! He told a reporter in 2000 that he was filing his income taxes as a resident of Utah? Don't reporters take meticulous notes before writing their news report?
Well, Mr. Romney said that must have been a mistake on the reporter's part. Mr. Romney told the Massachusetts State Ballot Commission quote I've met with that reporter at least a hundred times over the last three years and I do not recall a specific conversation about my residence in Utah. [JUne 17, 2002 testimony before MA State Ballot Commission]I'm sensing a trend here. It seems that there have been a lot of things Romney has said he doesn't recall. He said he didn't recall chasing a classmate with scissors and forcibly cutting his hair. Does he have a memory problem? Perhaps, Romney needs to see a doctor. These memory losses are starting to pile up.
That reporter ultimately got a subpoena to appear in Massachusetts and testify as to whether or not Mr. Romney actually told her that, and the paper resisted that subpoena. In terms of the tax break that Mr. Romney got on his Utah house for being a full-time resident in Utah, he blamed a Clerk in the tax assessor's office in Utah, saying he had never asked for that tax break. Somebody just accidentally gave it to him and accidentally saved him $54,000. The County Assessor ended up taking the heat for it, although she also said at the time that such an error had never before occurred during her 12 years in office. [See ROMNEY GOT CREDIT AS UTAH RESIDENT 'PRIMARY' LISTING IS CALLED AN ERROR, The Boston Globe, June 5, 2002 (Pay-To-View)]Wow! That Romney doesn't seem to be able to catch a break. Why are all these people doing these things to him? First the reporter says he filed his taxes in Utah, when he remembers that he filed them in Massachusetts. Now a clerk accidentally gave a $54,000 tax break? Wow!
What about all those tax returns for those multiple years that Mr. Romney signed, saying that he wasn't a Massachusetts resident? You can't really blame that on this reporter; can't blame that on the clerk in the tax assessor's office. I mean he signed these tax returns. What's his explanation for that one? His explanation was that he never bothered to read that stuff that he signed.Are you kidding me? This man is asking us to vote for him for President of the United States, and he doesn't even bother to read what he signs? This doesn't sound very encouraging. What if somebody put a bill in front of him that says one thing, but tells him it says something totally different. Would he just sign it?
Listen to this: Mr. Romney ... said he had always trusted his accountants and simply signed and dated the returns. He said he did not notice that a line asking for his domicile was left blank on the Massachusetts returns. Quote I do not read those or review those before I sign them nor the attached schedules. As you're probably aware, your tax return is one of those things that you submit, you sign and submit, under the penalty of perjury.So, Romney wants us to think that he believes that you can sign anything, as long as "to the best of your knowledge and belief" it is true. Didn't Romney graduate from law school? I was just a legal secretary a long time ago, and I know the difference between that and "pains and penalties of perjury." And that difference doesn't fall into the category of "honest mistake."
This was something that was pointed out to Mr. Romney when he testified before the Massachusetts State Ballot Commission to try to be allowed to run for Governor. Quote ...if I were to hand you an affidavit, Mr. Romney, and at the end of it, typed in your signature, and above your signature, I put "signed under the pains and penalties of perjury," and I said, "Mr. Romney, sign this document," you'd read it first; wouldn't you? Romney If you were to put it in front of me, yes. [Lawyer] So, you'd sign documents under the pains and penalties of perjury without necessarily reading them; is that your testimony? Romney: I have not read the entire Massachusetts tax form, nor the Federal tax form, nor the Utah tax form, and all of them have me sign under pains and penalty to the best of my knowledge and belief, and I do not read the entire form. [-June 18, 2002 testimony before MA State Ballot Commission]
Wait a minute. I remember that one of Romney's claims to fame is that he was Governor of Massachusetts for four years. How did he wiggle his way out of this one?
This was ten years ago. Ultimately, the residency challenge failed to keep Mr. Romney off the ballot in Massachusetts. Democrats tried it, but it did not work. But, [what] they were able to uncover about his tax history, in trying to prove that he wasn't really a Massachusetts resident, showed that what he said was in his tax returns was not actually what was in his tax returns. Mr. Romney maintained publicly for months, that he was a Massachusetts resident and he could prove it because he filed his taxes as a Massachusetts resident all those years. That's what he said was in his taxes. That was not what was in his taxes.So, while running for Governor of Massachusetts, Romney actually lied to the public until he got caught. How do we know he's not lying to us now when he's running for President?
And he seems to have known it at the time, even as he was making public claims to the contrary. When he finally got called out in June of that year, he admitted that a few months earlier when he decided to run for Governor, earlier that Spring, he had started the process of retroactively going back and changing those returns. Mr. Romney had not filed as a resident of Massachusetts. He said he did, but he didn't. He mislead the public about it the whole time. And he mislead reporters who were trying to get to the truth about it. Quote Earlier in the week, [Mr. Romney] rejected a request by the Globe for copies of his returns with financial information redacted, but his residential status visible. A Romney spokesman insisted at that time the GOP candidate had filed his returns as a Massachusetts resident, but told the Globe reporter, “You’re going to have to take my word for it.” [See Romney says he didn’t file as Mass. resident in ’99-’00, The Boston Globe, June 07, 2002]
"You’re going to have to take my word for it. It's really important what's in those tax returns but I'm not going to show them to you. Trust me about what's in them." After the truth started coming out, Mr. Romney eventually said then to The Globe, just like he's saying to ABC now, that he would get them all the information that they wanted. "sure, sure, I'll get you what you need." But even though he said that to the reporter, face to face, he did not. He absolutely shut them down, just like he's shutting down ABC ten years later.Does Romney think we're stupid or something?
Video of ABC News Report: ABC News reached out to the campaign today after Romney's answer. A spokesperson would only reiterate, "Mitt Romney has paid his taxes in full compliance with U.S. Law, and he has paid 100 percent of what he has owed." [Gail Gitcho, Communications Director]"Trust me. You're going to have to take my word for it. Just like trust me when I said I've always filed taxes as a Massachusetts resident, except for those years where you caught me not doing that and I had to retroactively go back and change them."
This is becoming a bigger issue, not a smaller issue in the campaign. That new New York Times poll that came out today of all the swing states, got lots of attention because of the overall numbers showing Mr. Obama ahead of Mr. Romney in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Florida; these hotly contested swing states right now. And honestly that's fine as August polling goes for a November election, which is not very far. But look at this other thing that was in the polls. Look at the responses to this question. Asked if candidates should publicly release multiple years of their tax returns, the majority of voters in Florida, in Ohio, and in Pennsylvania, all say presidential candidates should release several years of their tax returns. Given the history here in Massachusetts, maybe especially Mitt Romney should.Even though I did not participate in that poll, as a resident of Florida, you can count me in as somebody who thinks Presidential candidates should release several years of taxes. After all, Romney's father, George Romney released 12 years of taxes, saying "One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show, and what mattered in personal finance was how a man conducted himself over the long haul." Hasn't Romney only released one year of taxes? I think he should listen to his father. After learning about what happened in Massachusetts ten years ago, I certainly want to see more returns.
Joining us now is James Roosevelt, Jr. He was the top lawyer for the Massachusetts Democratic Party when Mr. Romney's tax returns were part of their challenge about whether or not Mr. Romney was a Massachusetts resident or not. Mr. Roosevelt, thank you for your time tonight. Thank you for being here.Darn it, Rachel! So close. I really thought you had Romney boxed in there. He's still claiming he had retired from Bain Capital (retroactively) in 1999, but you read those transcripts where he testified that he returned to Massachusetts for Board meetings. Surely, that proves he was still working for Bain Capital, while paying his taxes in Utah, hmmm, I mean Massachusetts. At least you elicited confirmation that Romney will use any trick in the book that he can to minimize his tax bill like claiming residency in one state, and then retroactively changing it to suit his needs. Now, more than ever, I really want to see what "legal" maneuvers he's been using to pay the least amount of income taxes for at least the last 10 years. I also want to see the analysis of those returns by tax experts.
JR: Glad to be with you, Rachel.
RM: This not a very complicated story, but sort of a deep story. It's a deep dive into what we know about Mr. Romney and his history both as a citizen and in terms of his financial life. In terms of the way I explained that history in Massachusetts, did I get any of that wrong, as far as you know?
JR: No, I think you got it right. And in trying to present this case to the Ballot Law Commission, we were trying to show exactly what he had said under oath, signing, as you pointed out under the pains and penalties of perjury, not by the way as he characterized it to the best of his knowledge and belief, but just under the pains and penalties of perjury. And we had the tax assessor statements in Utah. We had the Utah resident tax returns, the Massachusetts non-resident tax returns, and then we had his attempt to retroactively rewrite his personal history.
RM: He was trying to retroactively, essentially refile his taxes, so his Massachusetts taxes would be filed as if he were a resident of the state. He was making that retroactive attempt while he was still publicly maintaining, up until June of that year, that he had always filed as a Massachusetts resident.
JR: That is true.
RM: Wow! That seems to me to be the heart of the problem. Because what's happening right now with the demands to see Mr. Romney's tax returns, both from the Democratic opposition, but also from the press, is that his answer has been to characterize what's in them, and then say essentially: "Trust me. This is what's in them. There's nothing wrong in them. They show everything perfectly legal. Trust me on them." As far as you're concerned, and obviously you still have a stake in this matter, you're still a Democratic Party Activist in Massachusetts. Do you feel like there is an allegory between the trustworthiness he showed a decade ago and these questions now?
JR: Well, I think it fits with the pattern of trying to rewrite what his beliefs are, what his positions on issues are, and with trying to retroactively rewrite his personal history. And the interesting thing was that in the Ballot Law Commission hearing, we were trying to show what we believed to be true, that he had changed his residency to Utah. He was trying to show that he had maintained continuous ties with Massachusetts while he was in Utah working on the Olympics. And that's why he testified about his continuing business interests in Massachusetts, his continuing return to Massachusetts for board meetings that grew out of his employment at Bain.
RM: Looking through the transcripts today of his testimony before the Ballot Law Commission, which were voluminous and sort of mind bending by the end of the day, one of the things that becomes quite clear is that what he's trying to say, he spent lots of time in Massachusetts, it's on, a lot of it is on business related matters. Serving on the Board of the Staples Corporation, which of course was very heavily involved with his time at Bain. Serving on the Board of another corporation called the Lifelike Corporation, and some other business interest that did not seem to be associated with Bain. When there was this most recent controversy about whether or not he should be seen as having been involved with Bain after he left to go run the Olympics. Did you see that evidence, that he presented a decade ago as being relevant to his case there?
JR: He was trying to show that he had family and social ties back to Massachusetts, and really nobody was disputing that. The fact is that he had been very clearly stating one thing about his life. Then he started stating something else, and then he did these statements that he then tried to change latter. Oddly enough, it was always in a way that saved him taxes. Whether it was property taxes, or where he declared himself to have a principle residence in Utah and in Massachusetts, which got him a tax benefit in both places, or income taxes.
RM: James Roosevelt, Jr., former top lawyer for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, a current legal volunteer for the Party and the State. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, sir. I really appreciate your time on this.As much as I'd like to see you interview Romney, Rachel, I don't think he has the internal fortitude to withstand the questions you would ask.
JR: Nice to be with you.
RM: Thank you. As always, Mr. Romney, if you would like to talk with me about any of this stuff, mi casa su casa, any time. We would love to have you. Seriously.