As more questions swirl around Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and how much he has paid in taxes over the past decade, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid believes he has the answer: none.
Reid went on the floor of the Senate today and repeated his allegations that Romney paid no federal income taxes for more than 10 years. Reid said he got the information from an investor at Bain Capital, the firm Romney ran until about 1999.
Romney has refused to release his taxes before 2010, remaining steadfast even in the midst of a firestorm of criticism and questions from both Democrats and Republicans. The longer the candidate goes without giving them up, the more damaging observers think they must be.
Going a full decade without paying any taxes would be about as damaging as the tax story could get. Polls have indicated that voters believe Romney should release more of his tax returns.
Reid has seemed annoyed that reporters would insist that he provide substantiation for his dramatic claim. When he went on the floor of the Senate this morning, Reid said, “The word’s out that he [Romney] hasn’t paid any taxes for 10 years.”
Reid has not let up in the past month, first alleging a month ago on the floor of the Senate that Romney “basically paid no taxes in the prior 12 years.”
According to Reid, he found out about Romney’s taxes earlier this summer from a Bain investor who called his office. Reid has refused to identify the investor.
“I have had a number of people tell me that,” Reid said in a conference call with Nevada reporter. “I don’t think the burden should be on me. The burden should be on him. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn’t he release his tax returns?”
While reporters push Reid to verify his sources, it should be noted that no one has ever accused the senator of being rash or undisciplined. In other words, for the Senate Majority Leader to go this far out on a limb, with such a huge danger of enormous embarrassment, it must mean that Reid feels pretty confident about the truth of his allegations.
When Romney was recently asked whether the effective rate on his taxes had ever been below the 13.9 percent rate he paid in 2010, he dodged the question.
“I haven’t calculated that,” Romney said. “I’m happy to go back and look, but my view is I’ve paid all the taxes required by law.”
Romney campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said that Reid’s charges are “baseless, and they are untrue.”