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10 years of tax returns for me, not for thee

<p>Mitt Romney's strategy on hiding his tax returns has, oddly enough, gone largely according to plan.</p>

Mitt Romney's strategy on hiding his tax returns has, oddly enough, gone largely according to plan. Here was the strategy in a nutshell: (1) release fewer tax returns than any modern president; (2) ignore appeals for more disclosure, no matter how many legitimate questions arose; and (3) wait for the questions to go away.

The secrecy hasn't been healthy to the democratic process, and there are all kinds of pertinent questions about Romney's controversial finances that remain unanswered, but the political media establishment, which pushed pretty aggressively on this story for a long while, eventually moved on, just as Romney hoped.

To get the story going again, we'd need some kind of new revelation. Wait, here's one now.

As part of its [vice-presidential vetting process], the Romney campaign required at least some of the candidates on the short list -- including the eventual winner of the GOP veepstakes, Ryan -- to submit fully 10 years of tax returns, according to a knowledgeable source.The requirement was consistent with the past practices of both Republican and Democratic campaigns. Indeed, in 2008, Mitt Romney turned over 23 years of taxes to John McCain's campaign when he was under consideration to be the Arizona senator's running mate.

It's worth noting that the 10-year figure hasn't been confirmed elsewhere, and the Romney campaign would neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of the report.

That said, the Daily Beast report doesn't come as much of a surprise, either. Beth Myers, who oversaw Romney's vice-presidential search, conceded she'd obtained "several years" of income tax returns from those being considered, and Ryan himself told CBS it was "a very exhaustive vetting process," and he shared materials going back "several years." The notion that Team Romney would request 10 years' worth of documents is easy to believe -- indeed, the total, if anything, seems a little low, not implausibly high.

And so, if we work under the assumption that the Daily Beast piece is accurate, we're once again left with an obvious question: why does Team Romney believe 10 years' worth of tax returns is a reasonable number as part of a thorough examination of a candidate's record, but American voters are only entitled to one-fifth of that total as part of their own examination of a candidate's record?

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, hardly seems unreasonable when he says, "[If Romney] needed 10 years of returns to decide on a vice presidential candidate, don't the American people need the same to make their choice for president?"

Heck, the Obama campaign recently said they'd settle for five years' worth of returns and promise to never ask for more. That was deemed excessive, too.

The question of why in the world Romney feels the need to keep his records secret from the public continues to linger.