FLORENCE, S.C. – Mitt Romney this morning said that he has been paying close to 15 percent on his income taxes in recent years, a figure that is likely to be used by his political opponents to cast the former Massachusetts governor as out of touch with average Americans, many of whom pay at a much higher rate.
“What’s the effective rate I’ve been paying?” Romney, who has declined to release his tax returns, said at a press conference here. “It’s probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything. Because my last 10 years, I’ve -- my income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past, rather than ordinary income or rather than earned annual income.
“I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away,” he added. “And then I get speakers’ fees from time to time, but not very much.”
According to his most recent financial disclosure statement, he earned nearly $375,000 for nine speaking engagements in 2010 and early 2011. The fees for his speeches ranged from $11,475 to $68,000.
Romney’s wealth has increasingly come under scrutiny, with his Republican rivals focusing on it during a debate last night in Myrtle Beach. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who voluntarily releases his tax returns annually, called on Romney to release them this week, so that South Carolina voters can take them into account before going to the polls.
Romney has brushed those questions aside, suggesting he wouldn’t release them until April and only if he’s the nominee. This morning, he also indicated that he would only release the most recent tax year, not prior years.
“If I’m the nominee, people will want to see the most recent year, and see what happened in the most recent year and what things are up to date,” he said. “Rather than sort of have multiple releases of tax returns, why-- we’ll wait until the tax returns for the most recent year are completed, then release them.”
President Obama released six years of his tax returns March 25, 2008, trying to pressure his then-Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to do the same. Senator John McCain released two years worth of his tax returns on April 18, 2008.
Romney also responded this morning to questions about his jobs figures. He said at the debate last night that he helped create 120,000 jobs as a result of his work at Bain Capital.
“Let’s get the math, alright?” he said, as he walked toward his campaign bus at the end of his press conference. “Four companies created 120,000 jobs. It’s very simple. Four companies created 120,000: Staples, Bright Horizons, Steel Dynamics, and, uh, uh, which one am I missing? Sports Authority.”
“If you look up their 10Ks today, you’ll find that they have 120,000 jobs,” he added. “Those were all businesses I helped get started.”
When a reporter reminded him that those figures did not account for the jobs lost during that time period, Romney responded curtly, “Just gotta listen to the very end, alright?”
“So those four created about 120,000 jobs. And then all of those businesses that had been well-documented by various people over the years, when I ran in ‘94, when I ran last time, when I ran for governor, those that have lost jobs, they end up being a little less than 10,000, those that were losers. So if you took the ones that were losers, and compare with the ones that were -- those four, at least -- why you end up with something over 100,000.”
Romney came to Florence this morning for what was billed as a rally – and early music on the playlist included “We are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You” – but no more than 100 people showed up and even Romney seemed to take note of the sparse crowd.
“Gosh,” he said as he took the microphone. “This is a work day, isn’t it?”
He rarely deviated from his standard stump speech, but gave a nod to social issues that resonate with many South Carolina Republicans. Romney reiterated his opposition to both gay marriage and abortion.
After the event – and before departing for fundraisers in New York – Romney held a press conference.
At the beginning, Ann Romney stood with reporters outside the campaign bus, ready to field a question. Her husband looked toward her and said, “Yes, that lady right there. I think I’ll like that question.”
“Where’d the skinny jeans go?” she asked in jest. Her husband promptly dismissed the question and began fielding questions about his tax returns.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.