All Hail Harry Reid!

Once again, Mark and I disagree.

1)  What Reid said is not McCarthyism because his allegations are easy to disprove with evidence that Mitt Romney himself has, viz., Romney’s tax returns.  It’s not at all like accusing somebody of being something because of someone that they knew, or proving that they weren’t a Communist.  If Romney wants to show that Reid is full of crap, then all he needs to do is release his returns.

2)  What Reid said is not slimy because demanding that Romeny release his returns is perfectly legitimate.  Every party nominee for 40 years has done the same thing.  He’s not asking Romney to, say, release sealed divorce records (the case of Jack Ryan, who was going to be Obama’s opponent in the 2004 Senate race) or release the Romney sex tape or some such.  These are tax records.  They are fair game.

3)  And they are particularly fair game because Romney’s whole campaign is based on the idea that he is some sort of economic genius who will wave fairy dust over the economy like he did with, say, his IRA.  Fine: show us the goddam fairy dust.

Reid is right.  Romney is wrong.  Put up or shut up, Mitt.  End of story.

TBogg has more, including the notion that Harry Reid is the honey badger.  See for yourself.

QUICK UPDATE: I could be persuaded otherwise if I thought Reid was just making his source up out of whole cloth, but he isn’t: Dana Bash reports that Reid’s source 1) exists; and 2) is very credible.  Mitt’s in trouble, and he deserves it.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

68 thoughts on “All Hail Harry Reid!”

  1. I’m with you: I think Reid is using real jujitsu here, and quite brilliantly. Now the Democrats in general need to increase the pressure incrementally until Romney either gives in or looks so shady in his prevarications that Americans simply don’t feel they can trust him.

  2. TBogg is funny but why does he have to attack Bob Dole? Totally rude and gratuitous. Dole is so much less of an a**hole than the GOP types we have to deal with now.

    But otherwise, it does rather seem as if some shoes are going to fall on some deserving heads.

    1. “Totally rude and gratuitous.”

      Actually “deader than Bob Dole’s dick” is a brilliantly compact reference to Dole’s uninspiring presidential campaign, and his flacking for Viagra afterwards (both of which deserve to be remembered), with some alliteration thrown in for poetic effect. TBogg is some kind of genius.

      1. Never saw anything wrong with Dole making ads for Viagra after he was no longer in the running-for-office business, personally. Having that ad include scenes of an 18 y.o. starlet (although not the two together) was a bit odd, but probably not under his control.


        1. Oh, it was probably under his control. I’m not in the business and I don’t know the terminology, but given his public profile and given his wife’s political ambitions I’d be very surprised if Bob Dole didn’t have a contract giving him veto power and final edit over the ads he appeared in, lest he be made to look ridiculous.

    2. “TBogg is funny but why does he have to attack Bob Dole? Totally rude and gratuitous. Dole is so much less of an a**hole than the GOP types we have to deal with now.

      But otherwise, it does rather seem as if some shoes are going to fall on some deserving heads.”

      Dole is *now* less of a dick, but that’s because the GOP stayed on trend after he retired.

      In his day, he was a big dick, and proud of it.

  3. You did NOT just write “Romney sex tape.” Oh, my aching imagination.

    Tho Reid as honey badger almost makes up for that.

    1. Mitt Romney should release The Romney Sex Tapes! We all deserve to know what he’s got to hide and where he’s been hiding it.

      1. By “where he’s been hiding it”, I take it you’re addressing the possibility that in this primary season he’s been acting like he dresses Right … but when he was running against Ted Kennedy for the Senate, did he dress Left?

  4. But, unless there are circumstances none of us know about, it would seem that there is no way that Harry Reid could come by this information legally. If Reid “puts up,” will he not be exposing an illegal act on the part of the source of an IRS leak?

    1. A leak from the accounting firm would violate all sorts of confidentiality arrangements and ethical rules, no doubt, but would it actually be against the law?

      1. Doesn’t mcCain have the info? Surely someone,somewhere in the mcCain campaign would love to see Romney lose. Also, Bain.

    2. The source is described as a “Bain investor” in stories I’ve seen. Whether that means the person in question has actually seen the returns in question is open. It could be a pigeon who got a romney sales pitch that went “between you and me, I structured it this way and haven’t paid any taxes since xxx” or something like that. Although the way Dana Basch talks, it sounds like something more solid.

      I hope Dems take good note of Rachel Maddow’s show this evening, in which she shows us that romney is a past master of lying about his tax information and at the same time clubbing his opponents over the head about releasing theirs, their spouse’s, their dog’s, etc. I hope Reid and company know this and have gamed it out, ’cause I’m ready for some popcorn.

  5. Dirty Harry says: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question, Mitt: “”Do I feel lucky?”” Well, do ya, punk?”

  6. I am reminded of Governor Willie Stark’s commentary:




    What Senator Reid is doing may well not be “fair.” Should one who is about to accept the nomination of the party of Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh complain, though?

    1. Nothing the centrist tote-baggers love to see more than democrats fighting with one hand tied behind their backs,

  7. One anonymous source vouching for another? Really?

    I don’t deny that this is working: there’s no way a sentence with “Mitt Romney’s taxes” in it doesn’t hurt Romney, and Reid’s maneuver has generated thousands of such sentences.

    But I’m virtually certain Reid is lying, and lying is still A Bad Thing in my book, even if the guy you’re lying about deserves it.

    1. Mark, it’s a fair point that there is another degree of separation between Bash and Reid’s supposed source. But unless you have some other evidence, it’s not obvious to me that Reid is lying; he might be, but I actually think the evidence points the other way. First, Bash’s source vouches that Reid’s source exists and is credible: whatever you might say about veracity, I think that the source exists. That doesn’t mean that Reid is right, but it does mean that there is a credible source and Reid isn’t crazy for believing him or her. That’s not lying, in my book.

      More importantly, there are a lot of Bain partners who 1) are really ticked off at the way that Romney screwed the rest of his partners; and 2) might have a very good reason to know about Romney’s taxes. Perhaps I am being too gullible, but I don’t think you can write it off.

      1. “Nam Catonem nostrum non tu amas plus quam ego; sed tamen ille optimo animo utens et summa fide nocet interdum rei publicae; dicit enim tamquam in Platonis πολιτείᾳ, non tamquam in Romuli faece, sententiam.”

        “You do not love our Cato more than I do; but he, although employing the finest spirit and greatest integrity, occasionally harms the Republic; for he expresses his opinion as if in the Republic of Plato, and not in the shit of Romulus.”

        (Cicero Epistulae ad Atticum II.1)

      2. Here are the legitimate sources who could reasonably be assumed to actually have this information:

        1) Mitt Romney
        2) Ann Romney
        3) Mitt and Ann Romney’s accountant
        4) Mitt and Ann Romney’s lawyer
        5) Anyone to whom MItt and Ann Romney have repeatedly applied for loans, which frequently require tax returns.

        Note that “Bain investor” is not on the list–unless Harry Reid’s source is Mitt Romney, in which case we should find out why he refers to himself in the third person in private.

        The people at Bain would not have access to his return, for the same reason that you do not know how much your department chair paid in tax. The last would be certainly criminal, #2 & #3 would possibly be in violation of privacy laws and would certainly lose their jobs, licenses, and personal assets in the massive, successful civil suit that Romney would launch against them.

        For this reason, it seems unlikely that anyone who would actually have reason to know is Harry Reid’s source. Since Harry Reid has been around the government for a few tax bills, and is himself not exactly personally impoverished, it also seems unlikely that he is unaware of this.

          1. The McCain angle is what keeps coming back to me. Why would they pick Palin over Romney?

            The dems really need to turn up the heat on this and make sure they get the messaging right. That is what I worry about at this point. Romney will somehow turn himself into a sypathetic figure and the american people, being stupid as they are, will take his side on this issue. The dems need to keep it up on this and be smart about how they do it.

          2. There’s been a lot of speculation that Palin was chosen over Romney because Romney’s returns were fishy. I’m pretty sure that Palin was chosen because she was a young, attractive, far-right conservative who might help cinch the women’s vote. Unfortunately, no one on the McCain team realized that she was an exploding manure bag of stupidity (nor that she would become the most tenacious reality TV pseudo-celebrity the world has ever seen.)

        1. It is far from inconceivable that in schmoozing with a fellow partner Romney would have discussed the amazingly low tax liability he’d achieved by the way his investments were structured. After all, other Bain partners might well have shared essentially the same investment portfolio, and been able to take advantage of the same strategies.

          It could even have been part of the pitch used to recruit capital – a sales pitch to the effect that earnings could be maximized while tax liabilities were kept low, or even at zero.

          1. Is McArdle telling us that she has:

            a) Run a business
            b) Become personally acquainted with Mitt Romney
            c) Worked as a tax lawyer
            d) Spoken with everyone who ever saw Romney’s tax returns

            Or is this the usual propagandistic tripe that one expects from former “business editors” of the Atlantic who confuse statistics and hypotheticals and who are incapable of handling multiplication by powers of ten?

            Also, we might reasonably assume that John McCain has this information, that members of his campaign team have this information, that people who prepared the returns or advised on legal issues have this information etc etc.

            In other words, McArdle is, as usual, full of it.

          2. It may be “far from inconceivable”, but it’s also the sort of thing that a lying sack who dislikes Mitt Romney could easily make up, which is why one shouldn’t repeat it unless you can get confirmation from people who have actual reason to know.

            There are a few problems with the “he was selling a tax shelter thesis”. First: as far as I know, Bain Capital does not specialize in tax shelters, they specialize in a different kind of finance. Second: if Bain is selling financial instruments which allow one to legally declare loads of income while paying zero tax, I’d be fascinated to learn about it (other than the traditional muni bond fund, which is no secret). As I understand it, most tax avoidance involves either transforming the income into a tax preferred form (capital gains, municipal bonds, or dividends) or delaying the recognition of said income, meaning it wouldn’t show up on the tax return. Most tax evasion involves not declaring the income in the first place. Second, subsection B: if citizen Mitt had suddenly gone from, say $20 million to zero in taxable income, the IRS would quickly come around to ask why. There are no magic structures which give you, say, $20 million in cash which shows up on your tax return but incurs zero tax liability–those sorts of shelters used to exist, involving manufacturing losses for tax purposes, but they were mostly done away with in the 1986 reform in the US (and even then, the number of rich people who managed to pay no tax at all was in the . . . hundreds). It’s certainly possible that Romney, say, paid little-to-no tax in 2008 or 2009, as millions of people who mostly had capital income did when the market handed them massive losses. But 10 years? He’d have his own personal IRS agent dedicated to auditing him. Which brings us to the third problem: Romney hasn’t been selling anything for Bain Capital since 1999. So this hypothetical Bain investor who he was selling would at best know that Romney had paid no taxes in the 1990s, a question which releasing his returns from the last ten years would not resolve.

            If Romney is hiding anything, it’s most likely that he took advantage of the 2010 Swiss Bank account amnesty to repatriate money on which he had been evading taxes. That is entirely believable and fits the timing–and yet if I heard it from some Bain investor who said he knew it, I still wouldn’t repeat that claim in public, any more than I would if someone told me that he’d gone to Harvard with Obama, and yup, it’s true, the birth-certificate is an elaborate cover up. Theoretically possible, and who knows, maybe Obama said it in a moment of fellowship, but c’mon.

            Which is why I think that either Reid is lying, or he is willfully choosing to believe something ludicrously unlikely from an unlikely and unverifiable source. I think it’s even less likely that it comes from McCain aides, who are not exactly big fans of Harry Reid, and also, probably don’t have enough money to invest with Bain Capital, as Harry Reid claims his source did.

          3. Megan,

            It’s certainly possible that Romney, say, paid little-to-no tax in 2008 or 2009, as millions of people who mostly had capital income did when the market handed them massive losses.

            Capital gains are only a part of capital income. It also includes at least interest and dividends. No matter how big a taxpayer’s capital losses were in 2008 or 2009 they would not offset interest and dividend income, except to the tune of $3000 – which is nothing in RomneyWorld. So the “He had lots of capital losses argument” is worthless, unless he had no other capital income.

            The 2010 return shows about $8.25 million in dividends and interest. Is it plausible that number could have been zero in 2009? Pretty unlikely, isn’t it? The same argument appliers to your other hypothesized millions who paid no tax due to cpaital losses. The 2010 return also shows about half a million – chump change, I think Romney described it as once – in speaking fees. Was that zero in 2009, do you think?

            But 10 years? He’d have his own personal IRS agent dedicated to auditing him.

            Do you know he didn’t? Given his income and the complexity of his return it would hardly be surprising for him to be audited quite often.

          4. You do have to love this phrase by Ms. McArdle:

            If Romney is hiding anything,

            If Romney is hiding anything? By the standards set by recent Presidential candidate and by the standard his own father declared to be the minimum level of transparency the public had a right to expect, Romney is absolutely hiding something: he’s hiding something like a decade’s worth of tax returns. And he’s even hiding part of the one return he’s released, save for the fig leaf that the form in question went to the Treasury and not to the IRS.

            I suppose the question is whether he’s hiding something shameful. And I suppose we can’t know absolutely for sure – but his decision not to release more tax returns despite the pummeling he’s receiving on the issue sure makes it look like he’s made a calculation that the exposure of something in his taxes that he’s thus far managed to keep a lid on would be more damaging still.

          5. Ms. McArdle suggests that Harry Reid is “a lying sack”.

            Perhaps she has confused Sen. Reid with Sen. McConnell.

          6. Byomtov: Yes, I quite agree, which is why I think that it is wildly implausible that Romney paid zero taxes in any year. I’m just outlining how it *might* have happened. But contrary to popular belief, as far as I know there are no legal tax shelters which both give you access to the money, and allow you to pay no tax on it, except for municipal bond funds. That’s how Theresa Kerry got a tax rate lower than the average secretary’s–but Romney obviously has substantial non-muni income. There are lots of ways to lower the tax rate, and some ways to shelter capital income, but the really egregious shelters that let a handful of people pay no tax at all in teh 1970s have long been eliminated.

          7. Byomtov: Also, I wouldn’t be totally surprised to learn that Citizen Romney practically had his own IRS agent (people in his income bracket do get audited a lot, though not actually every year.) However, I would be shocked–faint–speechless–if said IRS agent had found a return with $0 tax liability, and Citizen Romney had survived the audit without a substantial upward revision in his tax bill, plus penalties and interest. Aside from a situation in which he had less than $3,000 in ordinary income and large capital losses–we agree, not all that likely a situation–I am aware of no *legal* tax shelter which would allow him to pay $0 in taxes fpr 1o years. Even C-corporations can’t manage that sort of thing (with the exception of GM, thanks to the Treasury’s astonishingly generous gift in the form of NOL carryforwards allowed to survive the bankruptcy), and for people, it’s much more difficult; you can’t set up a subsidiary of you in Ireland to lower your tax bill by selling you absurdly expensive towels and hand soap for the master bath.

        2. Or anyone to whom Mitt Romney has indiscretely made statments about avoiding Federal taxes on his own income; this is a category which might well include “Bain investors”. Such a person would not be bound in law to respect the privacy of such an indiscretion.

    2. Maybe he’s lying. But it is an awfully big bluff.

      If he is bluffing, and Romney calls by releasing his returns showing some reasonable amount of taxes paid, then Reid is going to look pretty bad, and it won’t help Obama much either.

      Reid either:

      1. Has the goods.
      2. Is confident that there is something that will absolutely prevent Romney from releasing the returns, or
      3. Is taking a giant gamble.

      1. Regarding number 3:

        (Reid) Is taking a giant gamble.

        Since when is lying in our politics a great gamble?
        I realize Reid is a Dem, but still, if there is one thing we should all aver right now it is this:

        American politicians are rarely held accountable for their lies.

        It is a lot like Wall Street banksters, paying a fine, admitting no guilt, and going on to defraud again…
        In short lying is to an American politician what serial fraud is to a Wall Street banker: A viable business model.

        We are a nation whose business leaders and politicians are immoral creeps and cretins…
        Is it any wonder the nation seems to be slipping round the toilet when its leaders are such turds?

      2. If nothing prevented Romney from releasing the returns, he would have released them already. It stands to reason that whatever is hidden is more embarrassing, for some reason or another, than what has been revealed so far.

        Suppose Romney releases his returns and we all learn that his effective tax rate for the past ten years has not been 0%, but 9%. Obama would clearly benefit more than Romney from the news. Reid’s reputation might take a hit, but he isn’t the one running for President, and he may not even run for re-election next term; he has reputation to burn.

    3. Reid is lying about having a source that is telling him that Romney paid no taxes for 10 years? I very, very much doubt that; the chances that the /source exists/ are probably 99.9999999%. And in today’s “he said, she said; we report both sides” media environment that is all that is needed to create a controversy that must (by the media rules) be reported on. Given that Atwater, Rove, and Norquist worked very hard to create those rules why shouldn’t Democrats make use of them?


      1. It counts a lying if the person telling you “X” says it with a wink and a nod.

        If I heard from someone unreliable source that Mark Kleinman was cheating on his husband (or his taxes), spreading it around recklessly is pretty much lying.

        1. = = =It counts a lying if the person telling you “X” says it with a wink and a nod.= = =

          We might prefer that we didn’t live in the world built by Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Grove Norquist, and the Scaife, Koch, and Walton super-PACs. We might prefer that the traditional media hadn’t been beaten into submission with the “liberal” club. We might prefer that we didn’t live in a world where the Republican spin control machine was able to transform Paul Wellstone’s funeral into an _attack_ on liberalism.

          We might prefer that world. But it isn’t the one we live in, and in the this world if someone said something (whether with a wink or not) then there is a “controversy” and it is very, very legitimate to demand that “both sides” be reported.


    4. Our esteemed host, Mark Kleiman, skrev :

      I’m virtually certain Reid is lying

      I’ll take that bet for $50, Alex.
      Proceeds to whichever charity the winner prefers; agreement void if the truth is never ascertainable.

      1. i’m reminded of the ad where the guy says he’s 99.9% sure of something and another guy follows up by saying “so you don’t really know.”

        i give the same follow up to mr. kleiman.

        kevin drum is taking about the same position as kleiman and i’m a little fed up with both of them on this. it’s possible that someone is playing a deep game against senator reid but i’m satisfied that there is nothing inherently unethical about the allegation because romney has the ability to provide a positive defense against falsehood by releasing his tax returns. has it been so long since a democratic politician engaged in bareknuckle politics that kleiman and drum have forgotten what it looks like?

        1. Excellent. I shall enjoy the denouement no matter which way it goes.

          And all of our contestants are, of course, playing the Future Of The Republic Home Game, will they or nil they. Good luck.

  8. I wonder if this has anything to do with Dirty Harry also being a Mormon. Whatcha wanna bet the source is someone he knows through the church. Now the possibility exists that that someone could be setting him up by feeding him this stuff. The Mormon church has a history of pulling some really shady stuff. But I doubt that to be the case. The stakes here are too high for Harry to not make sure about something like this.

  9. Romney says “put up or shut up”. Seems to me that Romney is the one that has the up with which to put. Maybe he learned something from Obama’s total destruction of Trump and he will release completely clean returns.

    Other than that Romney’s chance here would be to turn it into a Bush military record redux story. And be able to ignore it. I don’t know how he could do that so far it is an oozing sore and it is too recent. And unlike Bush who played at being a tough guy, Romney really was a vulture capitalist in his adulthood so he has pretty recent history as these things go.

  10. I wish I could remember which one it was, but in one of the earlier primary debates the moderator asked Romney about releasing more of his tax returns like his father. Romney, for an instant, looked absolutely terrified. He is clearly worried about something.

    1. When running for President full time and with a very strong chance of winning at least the nomination, Rmoney kept his taxes to about 13.5%. Now imagine what they were like when his team of shysters was given a free hand. I would be very surprised if there weren’t a couple of years in the last dozen in which his taxes dipped below 12% – quite possibly into the single digits. Americans are really bad both at math and at class consciousness, but at some point the fat that Rmoney lives the Republican dream that only poor people pay taxes might just penetrate peoples’ awareness.

  11. It’s always amusing to watch the glibertarian corporate propagandists like McArdle in action. First they try speciously reasonable claims (based on ignorance, admittedly, but still, plausible if you don’t stop and think about what they are actually saying). Then, when challenged, they start shrieking insults and roaring out the claim that you are lying, you must be lying. Finally, having been laughed at by the rational part of the community, they stamp their feet and march out, vowing never to return. Until, of course, the “honor” of some corporate raider and vulture capitalist must be defended. At which point, the cycle begins again.

    1. Let me remind you about our “play nice rules.” Insulting other commenters is not allowed. I note that in this case you don’t bother to dilute the insults with any substantive response to what Megan said.

  12. I have a bad feeling that this will turn out to be something like the Texas ANG story for GW Bush – a focus on narrow details of the story (Bush was completely AWOL! Here are some letters) shifts the discussion (these letters are forged!) and obscures the real issues. Similarly, “paid no taxes for ten years” really is highly unlikely to be true, and when it’s eventually disproven, will obscure the likely-real issues with offshore accounts, overall low tax rates, etc. And unfortunately I do believe that Reid is incompetent enough to be taken in by this.

    1. But how would that work in this case, Bruce? Romney’s obviously scared of something in his tax returns coming out. He clearly doesn’t dare release the materials that would disprove Reid’s claims. Whatever is in his returns would almost certainly render discussion of the ten years no taxes issue pretty irrelevant. What interests me is why Reid chose the ten year period. Does he know about something in that time frame within Romney’s tax returns that would look really spectacularly bad? Is he really trying to force the ten year disclosure to get at that one item or set of items?

      1. I should say I don’t think this is some sort of disinformation conspiracy – I just think the outcome won’t be good. The “ten years” is one of many things that makes me think this is from someone without specific knowledge – it’s a “suspiciously round number”, ie what you say when you vaguely know it’s 8 or 9 or 11 years; and someone who has turned a “paid very low taxes” into “paid no taxes” in their memory.

        I think it’s pretty clear from all the people who are knowledgeable about taxes that paying exactly zero (as opposed to a few percent) taxes is unlikely; I haven’t seen any plausible scenarios that lead to that. All the media would have to do to disprove the story is get enough expert commentary. (Of course, using actual facts to counter a claim or opinion isn’t something the media normally does, but there’s a first time for everything.) Or perhaps there’s a subset of documentation Romney could release (records of payments to the IRS?) It just seems that it’s not in our interests to have the discussion focused on a false claim rather than a real possibility.

  13. I would judge that (1) it’s unlikely that Reid is lying, and (2) it’s a bit more likely than not that Reid’s source is lying. But assuming for the sake of argument that Reid’s claimed source doesn’t exist, that would mean that Reid is doing the same thing as Romney did when Romney invented an inspector general to attack Obama. So under the hypothetical that Reid is lying, the moral question for Obama supporters is not whether lying is OK in the abstract, but whether it is acceptable to respond to Romney’s tactics by using them ourselves.

    I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that lives are at stake in this election. The Republicans have pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause thousands of Americans to die due to lack of health care. Winning the election by lying is a bad thing, but so is losing this election due to a lack of willingness to copy the tactics of one’s opponents. So I don’t think there are any easy answer to the general question of whether Obama and his supporters should stoop to using Republican tactics.

    1. Look, let’s not get unrealistic here. People lie every day – and do so for perfectly good and understandable reasons. Husbands tell their wives that they look great in their new dresses, even though they personally detest the color of the garments in question. Employees pretend to believe the boss when he tells them fishing stories. Friends make supportive noises when told about the horrors of a break-up with the most recent lover. We really should stop making lying into some sort of absolute moral outrage to be deplored on every occasion.

  14. Megam McArdle: “Here are the legitimate sources who could reasonably be assumed to actually have this information:

    3) Mitt and Ann Romney’s accountant
    4) Mitt and Ann Romney’s lawyer …”
    For people like the Romneys, “accountant” and “lawyer” don’t mean single individuals but firms with dozens of employees.
    Megan doesn’t count the IRS, perhaps because it’s not “legitimate”, but it would be authoritative; again, dozens of employees would have access to the Romney tax records.

    FWIW, I’m still attracted to the theory that the smoking gun in the hidden Romney tax declarations – there must be one, by the George Will argument – isn’t his declared income or net taxes, but something to do with the offshore accounts, possibly the Swiss account amnesty. If that’s so, Harry Reid’s tactic would be analogous to LBJ’s proverbial accusation of pigf*ing – but made of a paedophile.

    1. It ought to be mentioned that this Waiting for MittDot has been going on since the Republican primaries! Wasn’t it Comrade Gingrich the Unquotable who put his tax returns on line back in January and forced Mittens to make part – not all! – of his 2010 return and an estimate of his 2011 return available? One might also wonder just why it’s taking so long to deal with Romney’s 2011 tax returns. But doubtless we shall be told by some Beltway swill-trough glibertarian that “we people” don’t deserve to peruse the Sacred Returns of Bishop Willard the Felonious.

      Whatever is in Romney’s tax returns, he must be extremely nervous about it. He got hammered for this in the GOP primary – and is being hammered now in the presidential race. You could even argue it’s the one position that the KamaSutraCandidate has held consistently.

      1. It’s been going on longer than that. When he ran for MA governor the Dem candidate released her returns and wanted romney to release his. Instead of doing that, he angrily demanded to know why her husband hadn’t released *his* own returns and so deflected the whole tarball back on her. He never released his information then either. (See Rachel Maddow’s Friday videos for details.)

        So it looks like a pattern. The harder he gets pressed on this the more wildly he flails and accuses and demands. And it really looks like his endgame is that he will never, ever release his tax information no matter what. He has remarkably little sense of how he comes across and apparently even less ability to take advice. So it may really be smart tactics to start hitting him hard on this early to get him flailing and accusing and demanding. Just so he doesn’t explode irreparably before the republican convention . . .

        1. Well, you are right about the overall pattern, but this particular exercise in felonious Mitt-floppery only goes back to the latest round of GOP primaries. Oddly enough, Romney didn’t release any tax returns in the GOP primary of 2008 either, which may be when he got the idea that he could get away with it.

      2. On a similar vein, any of those private firms with dozens of employees can tell who has been accessing Mitt’s tax records–at the larger firms, they won’t be able to access them unless they are part of the team that’s authorized. (Accountants and tax lawyers are not stupid, and they are careful.) And every one of those lawyers, etc, has very good reason not to leak: it’s at the very least a civil suit and being thrown out of the profession. Nor is it likely that any of them fit the description “Bain investor”. Best case scenario: you’re right, in which case, we know Reid is lying. Everyone is doing a great job of coming up with people who have seen Romney’s tax returns, but no one who has seen Romney’s tax returns, and fits the description that Reid gave. In fact, the only person who fits that description is . . . Mitt Romney.

        1. “In fact, the only person who fits that description is . . . Mitt Romney”

          So what? He’s welcome to call 1-800-824-1040 and request tax transcripts for as many years as he likes, which the Internal Revenue Service can provie free of charge, or, for a small photocopying fee, provide him with copies of the returns he submitted for those same years. If that’s too much trouble, presumably the McCain 2008 campaign kept copies of the two decades-plus tax returns he provided THEM when seeking the VP nod. If that’s STILL too much trouble he can always say, “Honey, which house do we keep the tax retuns in again?” and get them that way. Or he can call his accountant.

          NONE of that is the issue. The issue is that 1) unlike supreme court nominees, executive branch political appointees, applicants for elevated security clearances, etc., etc., Romney has balked to an EXTREME degree in providing his tax history, and 2) Romney has a lengthy, despicable, PUBLIC history of extreme dickery regarding both his tax obligations and financial shenanigans in general. Reid, to the best of my knowledge, does not. Reid, on the other hand, is a Mormon, a man who has obviously engaged in quite a bit of long term financial planning, and an avowed enemy of Romney’s. I find it quite credible that he found an old colleague of Romney’s looking for some vengeance who had some dirt to dish. That is, I find it far more credible than Romney’s response, which boils down to, “Forget everything you know about my character and public record, which includes fabricating my residence to meet the MA requirements, and trust me when I said I paid my taxes.”

    2. Yes, I am assuming that an IRS agent is not the source, for three reasons:

      1) IRS agents definitely do not have enough money to invest with Bain
      2) An IRS agent that did this would be surprisingly easy to track down, and (IIRC) liable for all sorts of marvelous criminal actions once they had been found. They would certainly lose their job, and their gold-plated federal pension. People who go to work for the IRS are not, by and large, big risk takers.
      3) For all the reasons stated above, the likelihood that Romney actually paid $0 in taxes for 10 years, and suddenly started showing millions and millions on his 2011 returns isn’t really all that likely. The money wasn’t all in Swiss bank accounts, and a decent tax lawyer would know not to attract the attention of the IRS that way. I presume an IRS agent would know these things.

  15. Think about this:

    Mark Kleiman claims making an evidence free accusation that making an evidence free accusation is the same as lying.

    What am I missing?

  16. Think about this:

    Mark Kleiman makes an evidence free accusation that concludes that making an evidence free accusation is the same as lying.

    What am I missing?

  17. This, from a TPM commenter, illustrates some of the devious nuance that could be at work here:

    Simply put, selling his stake in Bain wouldn’t be income though it would spend much the same way.

    ” Romney’s income 2002 to 2009 [could] largely be from his partners at Bain buying back shares that he’s already contributed to his IRA, and just like any trading you do in your IRA, the sale of these shares would be tax free until after he turns 65 (and/or withdraws from said IRA) and he’d pay zero income taxes on that. So, if he had transferred 50% of his Bain management co. shares to an IRA, if he was being paid $20M per year to have those shares bought back, his tax rate would be a blended 7.5%. If the management company shares were held overseas or had overseas blocker entities, it is conceivable it could be even lower than that. Also, he could use his taxable shares as charitable gifts and his non-taxable IRA shares as tax free income.”

    Much more at the link. As the reader will surmise, anyone with knowledge that Willard Romney was selling his stake, especially the partners, would know something of the details.

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