In an effort to deflect attention from his refusal to release multiple years' worth of tax returns, Mitt Romney argued Monday that other candidates before him -- and their wealthy wives -- have been just as secretive.
“John Kerry ran for president; you know, his wife, who has hundreds of millions of dollars -- she never released her tax returns,” Romney told Fox News. “Somehow, this wasn’t an issue.”
The logic is a bit strained. Not only because Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, had made it a practice to release his tax returns to local press before every race. But also because contrary to Romney's assertion, Teresa Heinz Kerry's refusal to release her personal tax details indeed became a fairly large issue in the 2004 campaign (she would only end up releasing summary information). And it was the conservative press that helped make it such.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, for example, ran a July 1, 2004 column entitled "Kerry and Disclosure," which argued that "it's past time for his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, to release her full filings with the IRS."
So far the Kerrys have balked at full disclosure on the grounds that Mrs. Heinz Kerry's sons' assets are mixed in and so would have to be revealed. But that is true in many political households. We hardly think that would be taken as a valid excuse if Laura Bush shared a billion-dollar family trust with her daughters.
Mrs. Heinz Kerry has already reported her 2003 income as $5.1 million and pledged to release the first few pages of her tax return, but only in October when there may not be time in the campaign for journalists to investigate what it contains. She should release the complete records for earlier years now, and the whole 2003 return in early October. Choosing to lead a public life means accepting the need for financial transparency.
On Aug. 5, 2004, the Washington Times published its own editorial on the matter, declaring that "the time has long passed for Teresa Heinz Kerry to end the free ride she has been enjoying ever since she used her immense inherited wealth for the second time in less than eight years to resuscitate her husband's faltering political career."
The wife of the Democratic nominee, the conservative-leaning paper added, "needs to reveal the details of her finances, which Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has deftly exploited to his maximum political benefit - first during his tightly contested 1996 Senate race and then during this year's Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses."
If she truly admires the "power of example," then let her follow the example of John Zaccaro, the husband of 1984 Democratic vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro who revealed his tax returns. Unlike Mrs. Heinz Kerry, he never bankrolled his spouse's political career.
On June 28, 2004, the New York Post, playing off of a deep Los Angeles Times report on Heinz-Kerry's wealth, wrote in an editorial that "All other candidates for national office and their spouses over the past three decades have disclosed tax returns and answered questions about holdings."
None of these publications have written recently that Romney should ignore calls to disclose additional years of tax returns. But others close to the former governor's campaign now find themselves on the opposite side of the transparency issue.
As Think Progress noted on Tuesday, Ed Gillespie, then chair of the Republican National Committee and now a top Romney adviser, "personally insisted that Kerry’s wife Teresa Heinz-Kerry, who files taxes separately from her husband, publicize her tax information" throughout the course of the campaign.
With A Little Help From My Friends (Joe Cocker)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/28/mitt-romney-will-not-repu_n_1551540.html" target="_hplink">(May 28, 2012) --</a></strong> Despite a resurgence of <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/05/25/mitt-romney-s-new-bff-donald-trump.html" target="_hplink">Donald Trump's birther claims</a>, Romney refused to repudiate the billionaire, who has been helping with his 2012 campaign efforts. "You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me ... I need to get 50.1 percent or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people," Romney said. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Who Let The Dogs Out (Baha Men)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/16/mitt-romney-seamus_n_1429925.html" target="_hplink">(April 16, 2012) -- </a></strong> In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Romney discussed the political fallout over strapping his dog Seamus to a car roof. He admits that he probably would not do it again. (Handout)
It's The End Of The World As We Know It (R.E.M.)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/04/mitt-romney-medicare-president-obama_n_1403267.html" target="_hplink">WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 4, 2012) --</a></strong> Speaking before the Newspaper Association of America, Romney attacked Barack Obama on his health record, claiming the president "has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it." (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
For The Love Of Money (The O'Jays)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/mitt-romney-i-made-a-lot-of-money_n_1345516.html" target="_hplink"><strong>NEW YORK, N.Y. (March 14, 2012) -- </strong></a> Romney became testy on Fox News while discussing his appeal to lower-income voters. On the same day, Occupy Wall Street protesters staged a demonstration outside Mitt's Waldorf Astoria hotel fundraiser. (Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
People Are Strange (The Doors)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/mitt-romney-south_n_1334478.html" target="_hplink">PASCAGOULA, Miss. (March 9, 2012) --</a></strong> While on the trail in Alabama and Mississippi, Romney got in touch with his Southern side, learning how to say "y'all" and liking his grits. With those new experiences in hand, he admitted that "strange things are happening to me." (Photo: AP/Evan Vucci)
Pink Cadillac (Bruce Springsteen)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/mitt-romney-cadillac_n_1299740.html" target="_hplink"><strong>DETROIT, Mich. (Feb. 24, 2012) -- </strong></a> While speaking before the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field, Romney listed not two, not three, but four American-made cars that he and his wife, Ann, owned. Among the vehicles: "a couple of Cadillacs." (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
It's The Hard-Knock Life (Annie & The Orphans)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/01/mitt-romney-very-poor_n_1246557.html" target="_hplink">TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 1, 2012) --</a></strong> In an interview with CNN, Romney noted that he is "not concerned about the very poor," citing the social safety net for that segment of the populace. (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
America The Beautiful
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/31/mitt-romney-america-the-beautiful-_n_1243908.html" target="_hplink"><strong>THE VILLAGES, Fla. (Jan. 31, 2012) --</strong></a> On the eve of Florida's primary, Romney led his supporters in a singing of the patriotic song. (Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
Successful (Drake, Lil Wayne)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/19/mitt-romney-tax-returns_n_1217708.html" target="_hplink"> <strong>CHARLESTON, S.C. (Jan. 19, 2012) -- </strong></a> During CNN's GOP debate, Romney refused to commit to disclosing his tax returns, offering no apologies for his success. (Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
Bye Bye Bye ('N Sync)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/09/mitt-romney-i-like-being-able-to-fire-people_n_1194115.html" target="_hplink"><strong>NASHUA, N.H. (Jan. 9, 2012) -- </strong></a> In a speech about insurance options, Romney tells audience members, "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me." (Photo:AP/Charles Dharapak)
Don't Know Why (Norah Jones)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/28/mitt-romney-embraces-climate-change-denial_n_1063905.html" target="_hplink">PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Oct. 27, 2011) --</a></strong> Back in June 2011, Romney said humans are somewhat tied to climate change. By October, he had reversed course, saying "We don't know what causes climate change." (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)