08/02/2012 02:32 pm ET Updated Oct 02, 2012

McCain Should Release Romney's Tax Returns

Mitt Romney almost won the GOP nomination in 2008, but John McCain ended up carrying the party nod as a well-known U.S. Senator and Vietnam POW. Romney was considered for the VP spot and submitted 23 years of tax returns during the vetting process. in the end, McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, saying she was the "better candidate." Was there something in those 23 years of tax returns that made John McCain choose the dim-witted Alaskan governor instead?

Ever since George Romney, Mitt's dad, released years of tax returns in his run for president, the release of tax returns has been a tradition for presidential candidates. Mitt, however, won't do anything more than release partial returns from the most recent years, one of which showed a $77,000 tax break he got for his wife's dressage horse. What isn't yet known is that, in the 23 years of tax returns submitted to the McCain campaign, if Bain Capital fell into the category of major corporations that paid $0 in federal taxes, or even paid a negative federal effective tax rate and got a refund. If that's true, that should be information available to the voting public.

It isn't uncommon for a large corporation to pay a negative U.S. tax rate, given the numerous exemptions and deductions corporate lobbyists have succeeded in adding to the tax code through lobbying Ways and Means and Finance Committee chairmen and ranking members over the years. These same corporations, like General Electric, Bank of America, Citibank, Chevron and ExxonMobil got more back in federal tax refunds last year than any of us would make over several lifetimes. Some of these corporations, like Corning Inc., have the audacity to complain about high corporate taxation after paying $0 in U.S. taxes and getting a refund.

If Mitt Romney insists on running his campaign as a shrewd businessman who can bring economic prosperity back to America, Americans have a right to know if Romney ran his business ethically and paid his fair share of taxes. Just as it's inappropriate for a presidential candidate who opposed the auto industry bailout to criticize the guy who revived the American car manufacturing sector as anti-business, its equally inappropriate for a presidential candidate to complain of high taxes on the richest Americans and corporations while paying negative U.S. tax rates.

George Will had it right -- Romney not releasing his tax returns is a costly political move, meaning it must be more costly to his campaign for him to be transparent about his tax returns. But transparency about supporting the infrastructure of the country that enabled you to acquire your wealth should be required for anyone seeking the country's highest office. If Mitt Romney is so proud of success, he should release the tax returns that prove it. And if he won't, John McCain's campaign should.