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Brown, Warren announce plans to release tax returns

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign said today that she would release four years of tax returns, two fewer than her opponent, Senator Scott Brown, has agreed to release.

The Globe had requested six years of returns from both candidates -- this year, plus the five previous.

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“Elizabeth Warren has been clear from the beginning that she would voluntarily release her tax returns and she is glad to see that Republican Senator Scott Brown has finally agreed to do the same,” her campaign said in a statement early this afternoon. “Elizabeth is not a career politician like Senator Brown, but she will release her tax returns for her entire time in public service and by releasing 4 years of returns, she is providing the people of Massachusetts with a transparent and full accounting of her financial situation.”

Brown plans to publicly release six years worth of returns later this week, his campaign said in a letter to Warren this morning that put pressure on the leading Democratic challenger to do the same. In that letter, Brown’s campaign manager, Jim Barnett, said the senator will make his returns “available for inspection” on Friday.

By early afternoon, Warren announced that she would release four years worth of returns, drawing criticism from Barnett who attacked Warren’s refusal to release all six years, questioning whether she has something to hide.

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“It doesn’t take a Harvard Law degree to see through Elizabeth Warren’s game of cat and mouse and know she has something to hide,” Barnett wrote in an email. “Whether she is concealing other big corporate clients like Travelers Insurance, which paid her enormous sums to fight against victims of asbestos poisoning, covering up sketchy financial transactions, or simply masking that she may take advantage of tax breaks she criticizes others for, Warren’s nuanced refusal to disclose the tax years 2006 and 2007 exposes her hypocrisy when it comes to transparency in government.”

Warren’s campaign challenged Brown to make his returns available Wednesday, saying a Friday release amounts to “a typical Washington game of releasing bad news when there is traditionally little news coverage.”

“Elizabeth thinks we should be more straightforward and make both returns available tomorrow,” her campaign said.

Barnett said the campaign chose Friday because Brown would be in Washington until late Thursday. He said the date could be moved to Monday if Warren prefers.

Warren, a Democrat, had previously said she would release two years of returns if Brown did the same. She said that period spanned the time she had served in the Obama administration and been a political candidate, as well as Brown’s tenure in the Senate.

Brown had been hinting since last week that he was willing to release his returns, following a request on Tax Day from the Globe to both candidates, but he had yet to announce a firm decision. The Globe had requested returns for the most recent filing year, due last Tuesday, plus the five previous years.

In today’s letter, Barnett accused Warren of “political gamesmanship” on the issue.

“You have declined this request,” the campaign manager wrote today. “Instead, you have offered to release far more limited information, and even then have made that contingent on a demand that Senator Brown go first.”

Late last week, Warren indicated that she may also release more than two years, depending on what Brown did.

“Obviously, if there is more, we should talk about it,’’ Warren said Friday in response to a reporter’s question about whether she would release more extensive records.

Candidates for prominent public offices frequently release their tax returns in the interest of transparency and to reassure voters that their personal financial practices parallel their public rhetoric.

Taxes and income have become a flashpoint in the campaign. Warren has called for higher taxes on the wealthy and said middle class workers are not playing by the same rules as the affluent.

Brown has tried to draw attention to Warren’s personal wealth and questioned why she has not voluntarily paid a higher state income tax rate, as Massachusetts allows. The campaign also put out a new press release today, drawing attention to an interest-free loan Warren received from her employer, Harvard Law School, worth between $15,001 and $50,000. The loan was disclosed on Warren’s government disclosure forms. The Brown campaign called it a “sweetheart deal” in light of the rising costs of college.

But the disclosure of personal income also carries risk for Brown, who has built his reputation as an everyman, despite owning multiple properties and earning a $700,000 advance for his memoir.

Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.
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