Elizabeth Warren demanded Monday that Senator Scott Brown release more of his tax returns. The only problem was that Brown, her Republican rival, had already allowed reporters to inspect six years of tax returns while Warren has refused to reveal more than four years of her filings.
Asked to reconcile that apparent conflict, Warren abruptly backed off her demand, sayingTuesday morning that six years of Brown’s filings was enough. She did not, however, offer to release any more of her IRS filings.
It was the second time in as many weeks that Warren has had to back off a public comment. Last week, she said that she regretted boasting to a reporter that she meets people employed in Wall Street jobs who tell her they support her candidacy because she “will save capitalism.” In walking back the comments, she told reporters the statement was “over the top” and “silly.”
This week, Warren found herself raising the ante on an issue where her opponent had already bested her.
Both candidates were asked by the Globe in April to release six years of tax returns, a common request to check for conflicts of interest, and contradictions between a candidate’s policy pronouncements and personal financial practices.
Brown agreed to allow reporters into his campaign office to inspect all six years of documents. Warren would agree to allow reporters to inspect only four years’ worth of returns, releasing some documents outright and allowing reporters into her campaign headquarters to review the supporting documents.
The Brown campaign said at the time that Warren must have something to hide, a similar charge Democrats are now relentlessly leveling against Mitt Romney, who has released only his 2010 returns along with an estimate for 2011.
Warren joined the Democratic criticism of Romney on Monday, demanding that the presidential candidate release 10 years’ worth of returns, the website GoLocalWorcester.com reported. She then offered a similar criticism of Brown, suggesting that both men were not being fully transparent and demanding they release more of their tax filings.
“I think Scott Brown should release his tax returns for all the years he’s been in public service,” Warren said. “He’s been in public service for 20 years, then he should have 20 years of tax returns.”
Tuesday, after questions from the Globe, the Warren campaign retracted its demands of Brown. In a statement, the campaign tried to put the emphasis back on Romney and conceded that Brown had in fact released multiple years of tax returns.
“Elizabeth was asked whether Mitt Romney should release more tax returns. She thinks that as a candidate for the highest office in the land, he should,” her spokeswoman, Alethea Harney, said in a statement. “Both Elizabeth and Senator Brown have released multiple years of tax returns that she believes give voters an understanding of each candidate’s financial circumstances.”
A day earlier however, Warren said, as she has in the past, that candidates should release documents for all the years in which they have been in public service.
But that is not a universally accepted standard. It would mean, for example, that first-time candidates who spent their careers on Wall Street or running banks would not have to release any tax returns at all.
And even under that standard, Warren has limited her definition for her own career in public service.
She has included the years she spent leading a congressional panel overseeing the bank bailouts and the time she spent helping President Obama establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
But she has not included her work from 1995 to 1997 as adviser to the National Bankruptcy Review Commission, or her 2006 appointment to the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion.
Brown’s campaign manager, Jim Barnett, said in a statement that “Elizabeth Warren deserves a pair of gold medals for backpedaling and hypocrisy.”
“In her fumbled attempt to smear Scott Brown, she has only raised new questions about why she continues to hold back tax records requested by the media,” Barnett said. “We renew our call on Warren to stop the stonewalling, release the remaining two years of tax returns that Scott Brown has already released.”
Noah Bierman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.