‘You’re going to have to take my word for it’: Mitt Romney, tax returns, and a decade of evasion


Another Mitt Romney election, another set of tax questions without answers.

The Republican candidate has been hammered in recent months for refusing to release more information about his tax returns. But as Rachel Maddow explained Wednesday night, compared to nearly being thrown off the ballot in the 2002 Massachusetts governor’s race, this is nothing.

To explain: A decade ago, Romney was trying to prove his eligibility to run for governor of Massachusetts. The state requires candidates to be a resident for seven years before running for governor. Romney testified to a state panel that this wasn’t a problem because he’d been paying taxes in Massachusetts for years, even while living in Utah and running the Salt Lake City Olympics. 

But Romney hadn’t been paying taxes in Massachusetts—he’d listed Utah as his primary state on several years of tax forms. When asked about this by Boston Globe reporters, he said he wasn’t sure what was in his taxes but he’d be “happy to look into it.”

But after the Globe then sent Romney specific questions about his Utah residency, his campaign declined to respond because “he values his privacy and his wife’s privacy.” When reporters asked for the forms with financial information redacted and residency information visible, a spokesman told the Boston Globe: “You’re going to have to take my word for it.”

Sound familiar?

It should, because a very similar scenario has played out this time around. On Monday, an ABC News reporter asked Romney if he’d ever paid a tax rate that was lower than 13.9 percent—the rate he paid in the one year for which he has so far released his return. Romney said he’s ”happy to go back and look.” But just like with the Globe in 2002, when ABC followed up, they were stonewalled.

That’s not all. The 2002 story gets even more byzantine: Once it was finally pointed out that Romney had filed as a Utah resident, and had even told a reporter in Utah that he had done this for tax reasons, Romney punted responsibility for it: The reporter was lying, a Utah tax clerk had made a mistake, and he hadn’t read his taxes before signing them, he now claimed. At the same time, Romney noted he’d been trying to fix the error.

“He was trying to retroactively, essentially refile his taxes, so his Massachusetts taxes would be filed as if he was a resident of the state,” Maddow said.

Of course, as Maddow noted, much of that 2002 testimony was focused on how much of Romney’s business interests had him in Massachusetts in 2000 and 2001—you know, that time that Mitt was CEO of Bain Capital, but not really? 

Mitt Romney

'You're going to have to take my word for it': Mitt Romney, tax returns, and a decade of evasion