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News Analysis

Brown’s tax release argument at odds with Romney’s

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Mitt Romney and Scott Brown shake hands after political advisers the two share helped Brown win a 2010 US Senate special election in Massachusetts.

US Senator Scott Brown is pressuring his reelection rival Elizabeth Warren to release six years worth of her tax returns, but his strategy could have some unintended consequences: drawing more attention to his fellow Massachusetts Republican, Mitt Romney.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee so far has refused to divulge years of his tax returns, saying that one year – along with promises to release this year’s return when it is complete, sometime before this fall’s general election – should suffice.

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But Brown, whose top political advisers are the same as Romney’s, is making the exact opposite argument. His campaign argues that the public deserves to see numerous years.

“The tax years you are attempting to conceal contain important and potentially revealing information,” Browns’ campaign manager, Jim Barnett, wrote in a letter today to Warren, his Democratic challenger.

He also accused Warren of “political gamesmanship” on the issue, and said Brown would release six years worth of his tax returns on Friday. Warren has pledged to release at least two, assuming Brown did the same, though she has also hinted she may release six years worth.

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The Globe asked both Brown and Warren to release their current returns and their returns for the prior five years.

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.

The issue of tax returns has been a thorny one for Romney.

His late father, George, released 12 years worth of tax returns when he ran for president in 1968. Mitt Romney also reportedly made 20 years worth of returns available to John McCain when he was being vetted as the 2008 nominee’s potential vice presidential running mate.

Democrats have argued he should follow both examples. President Obama has already released his current returns, made them public annually throughout his presidency, and released six years worth during his 2008 race.

The national politics could carry a sharper edge for Romney now that Brown is making the topic a focus in his high-profile Senate race in Massachusetts.

The Republican senator is attempting to do the same thing to Warren in Massachusetts as Democrats on a national stage are hoping to do to Romney: paint her as wealthy and out of touch, and expose some potentially controversial financial deals.

Romney was dogged by questions of whether he would release his tax returns earlier this year.

Eventually he relented, agreeing to release his 2010 returns along with estimates for 2011. Yet earlier this month, as the April state and federal tax deadlines approached, Romney filed for an extension. His campaign said the returns will be released in the coming months, which would include the summer vacation season when news consumption typically drops.

The campaign has also not expressed any interest in releasing returns for additional years.

“We think that’s sufficient,” Eric Fehrnstrom, who advises both Romney and Brown, told MSNBC earlier this month of Romney’s tax returns.

Neither Fehrnstrom nor a Romney campaign spokeswoman immediately responded to a request for comment.

Matt Viser can be reached at
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