Disclosure: Sauce for the Goose…

As the Republican candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination form the circular firing squad that has come to epitomize the Republican primary process, life goes on.

And while life was happening, someone finally asked one of the questions that I’ve been wanting asked at the Daily White House Press Briefings, for a long time:

Ed Henry, FOX News: “I don’t know how many years, maybe you do, George Romney released of his college transcripts, but Republicans like to complain that the President has not released his college transcripts. What is the stated reason for that?”

Jay Carney, White House: “I would refer you to the campaign. I think we’ve answered this a bunch. The tradition of releasing income tax records for serious potential nominees, and nominees of the two parties is well established. It’s not a law. But it’s well established. It’s one this President abided by when he was a Senator. It’s one numerous Republicans and Democrats have abided by and we think its a good idea.”

As you’ve just read, however, Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, responded with the ol’ Potomac Two-Step.

The income tax records referred to in the exchange belong to Republican Mitt “The Legacy” Romney.  Romney, in his usual wishy-washy style, almost made a promise to release them:

If I become our nominee, and what’s happened in history is people have released them in about April of the coming year, and that’s probably what I would do,” Mr Romney said at a debate among Republican rivals seeking their party’s nod to run against Democratic President Barack Obama.

Rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, as well as President Obama, have called on Mr Romney to release his income tax records.

“I anticipate that most likely I am going to get asked to do that around the April time period,” Romney said, referring to US tax day.

“I’ll keep that open,” he said of whether he would indeed do so.

His private business record has come under in recent weeks, including Mr Romney’s former firm Bain Capital, for culling jobs, and candidates behind him in the polls are hoping to expose any cracks in the former Massachusetts governor’s past.

Mr Romney maintains his history as a corporate turnaround wizard who helped establish brands like the Staples office supply store, fit him perfectly to reboot the crashed US economy and create jobs.

But for the Obama campaign, Mr Romney’s past seems a perfect match for the president’s narrative that Wall Street’s greed-laced rampage deprived the middle class of a “fair shake” at the American dream, and have relished his fellow hopefuls jump on him to release his tax records.

What will the records show when he releases them?  Mitt gave us a clue yesterday:

…Mr. Romney said his effective tax rate is “probably closer to the 15% rate than anything.”

The former Massachusetts governor has been pressed by his his Republican opponents to release his tax records as soon as possible, and at Monday’s GOP debate, he said he is considering doing so in April.

The details Mr. Romney relayed Tuesday indicate that he, along with many high-earners, benefits from lower tax rates than some middle-income families. The question many are raising is whether Mr. Romney’s compensation, including his retirement package, at private equity firm Bain Capital was taxed as ordinary income with rates as high as 35% or was his compensation considered “carried interest,” which is taxed at the 15% capital gains rate. If his compensation was considered a management fee, it would taxed at ordinary income rates. Democrats in Congress have tried to end capital gains treatment for carried interest, but their efforts have been met with fierce lobbying.

For the past 10 years Mr. Romney’s income has overwhelmingly come from past investments, he said. “I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away. And then I get speakers fees from time to time, but not very much,” Mr. Romney said.

Well, that’s more than ol’ Scooter has given us, concerning his transcripts.

From an article Ross Goldberg wrote for the New York Sun, published September 2, 2008:

The Obama campaign has refused to release his college transcript, despite an academic career that led him to Harvard Law School and, later, to a lecturing position at the University of Chicago. The shroud surrounding his experience at Columbia contrasts with that of other major party nominees since 2000, all whom have eventually released information about their college performance or seen it leaked to the public.

For better or worse, voters have taken an interest in candidates’ grades since 1999, when the New Yorker published President Bush’s transcript at Yale and disclosed that he was a C student. Mr. Bush had never portrayed himself as a brain, but many were surprised to learn the next year that his opponent, Vice President Gore, did not do much better at Harvard despite his intellectual image. When Senator Kerry’s transcript surfaced, reporters found that he actually had a slightly lower average at Yale than Mr. Bush did…

The Obama campaign declined to comment for this article and did not offer an explanation for why his transcript has not been released. But observers speculated that one reason might be the racially charged nature of the election. Mr. Obama has acknowledged benefiting from affirmative action in the past, and details about his academic performance might open him up to critics eager to accuse him, probably unfairly [or, possibly justly], of receiving a free ride, Mr. Kabaservice said…

Obama will never release his transcripts…willingly.  

Why?  Because the light of day illumines everything.

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