Tax returns may be serious business for the Internal Revenue Service, but in the realm of politics they’re irrelevant to political discourse — so long as there is no wrongdoing.
That's the overwhelming consensus of Wisconsin Republican insiders who took part in Patch's latest "Red Wisconsin" Survey. More than 80 percent of party leaders and activists surveyed made it clear that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has no reason to release more of his personal income tax returns than he already has.
Democrats — and even some members of the Republican Party — have demanded that Romney release additional years of tax returns beyond 2010 and 2011 that he already has made public. (Copies of his returns are attached to this article)
Adding to the taxation aggravation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday refused to back down from his earlier accusation that Romney hadn’t paid taxes for over a decade. Reid said he received the tip from an unnamed source who invested with Bain Capital.
But for Patch’s group of Wisconsin Republican Party insiders, the hullabaloo surrounding Romney’s tax returns is just a red herring distracting citizens from the real issues at hand in November's election.
"Additional time spent on his tax returns reduces the amount of time we spend on the economic and foreign policy mistakes made by Obama.”
A resounding 83 percent of respondents said Romney shouldn’t release additional years of tax returns to the public. Just 11 percent claimed he should release additional returns, and 5 percent were undecided.
Patch sent questionnaires to 93 key party activists, elected officials, conservative bloggers and talk show hosts, and others who agreed to anonymously give their opinions in a series of surveys between now and November. Patch received completed surveys from 77 people — or 83 percent of those surveyed.
Among those who have agreed to participate in the survey are state Reps. Jeff Stone, Dan Knodl, Mark Honadel and Don Pridemore; Mark Green, former congressman and U.S. ambassador; Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas; and conservative radio talk show hosts Charles Sykes and Jeff Wagner.
Dems Are Going Fishing
For the Wisconsin Republicans surveyed, the debate over Romney’s tax returns is just another political game of gotcha before November. To them, tax returns are irrelevant to a candidate’s qualifications and are a personal matter. They claim it's another tactic to distraction voters and mask Obama's own inadequacies.
“(Romney) has released everything that is necessary to inform the public,” said one insider. “Everything is in order. No issues. Additional time spent on his tax returns reduces the amount of time we spend on the economic and foreign policy mistakes made by Obama.”
Added another: "Romney has complied with all pertinent campaign disclosure requirements. If the American public finds the law lacking, than we should change the law. Besides, Romney has been running for president for about a decade. I find it very hard to believe that all of a sudden, 100 days before the election, that his tax returns are the one last thing we need to see before voting."
Wisconsin Republican influencers say those foreign policy and economic mistakes by Obama are the issues that matter — not tax returns. Roughly 78 percent of Patch insiders surveyed believed Romney’s tax returns are not an issue that matters to voters. Furthermore, 85 percent of those surveyed said the tax return debate will have no impact on the election.
“These are the most current (tax returns). The Dems are making much ado about nothing,” said one insider.
So what's all the fuss about?
Insiders believe the debate regarding Romney’s tax returns is simply another way for Democrats to throw a political barb. No matter what option Romney chooses, many insiders feel he’s caught in a Catch-22 created by the Democrats.
“There’s no upside for (Romney). He will get raked over the coals for making a lot of money if he does — and possibly more bad press if he doesn’t release them,” said another insider.
But the small minority of insiders, just 11 percent, who were in favor of releasing more tax returns claim Romney has nothing to lose through transparency.
“If he doesn’t have anything to hide, why not? What’s he got to lose? Everyone knows he’s rich,” said one respondent.
One insider said Romney could even turn the tables on Democrats by releasing more tax returns. That person claimed it could give the presidential hopeful a platform to expose the faults in the current tax code and demonstrate that he’s a candidate serious about tax reform.
Show Me Yours, I’ll Show You Mine
Another revelation from the latest Red Wisconsin Survey is that most GOP insiders are quite familiar with the definition of hypocrisy. Many asked why Obama isn’t transparent about personal matters himself.
“Transparency should apply to both sides, and quite frankly I’m not sure why it’s important to scrutinize one candidate, while ignoring the other,” one insider pointed out. “Maybe when Obama releases his academic records, passport, and other records we can talk about it.”
For years, Republicans have demanded to see personal records from Obama’s past. And in mid-July, sheriffs in Arizona claimed they had proven Obama’s birth certificate was a forgery. The White House released the birth certificate in question back in 2011.
“The Obama administration will not comply with releasing records from the Obama’s past, why should Governor Romney or the Romney campaign comply with his request?” one survey respondent asked.
Patch will be conducting Red Wisconsin and Blue Wisconsin surveys throughout 2012 in hopes of determining the true sentiment of conservatives and liberals on the ground in the Badger State.
If you are an activist, party leader or elected official and would like to take part in a weekly survey that lasts just a few minutes, please email Regional Editor Mark Maley at email@example.com.
The first Red Wisconsin Survey, Patch asked its group of insiders to take on Tammy Baldwin for the U.S. Senate seat.
Members of Patch's Red Wisconsin Survey particpants are:
Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, former chief of staff for Assembly Republican Leader Jeff Fitzgerald; Bill Berdan, first vice chairman, Wauwatosa Republicans; Keith Best, public relations chairman for Waukesha County Republicans; Bob Bradley, party activist; Charles Brey, field director for state Assembly candidate Tracy Herron; Tracy Brodd, Republican campaign worker; Paul Bucher, former Waukesha County district attorney and candidate for Wisconsin attorney general; Roy Catron, Tea Party activist; Andrew Cegielski, former Milwaukee County Board candidate; Sara Conrad, party activist; Bill Cosh, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources; Michael Crowley, Waukesha County supervisor; Jake Curtis, former state Assembly candidate; Lou D'Abbraccio, board member, Racine County Republican Party; Brian Dey, Racine County Tea Party member; Fred Dooley, conservative blogger; Steven Duckhorn, former Republican candidate for Milwaukee County sheriff; Bill Folk, chairman of Racine County Republican Party;Elisabeth Friesen, Republican activist; Jesse Garza, chairman, St. Croix County Republican Party; Mark Green, senior director of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania and former congressman; Chris Haines, longtime campaign volunteer and former GOP campaign manager; Deb Hawley Jordahl, conservative strategist and consultant; John Hiller, co-chair of Scott Walker's transition team as governor; Sandra Hollander, member of Mitt Romney's “Juntos con Romney” leadership team; Ethan Hollenberger, former chairman of the College Republicans at Marquette University and staff member on several legislative campaigns; Mark Honadel, state reprsentative, 21st District; Marguerite Ingold, party activist; Valerie Johnson, former GOP fundraiser and staffer for various campaigns; Thomas J. Keeley, political consultant; Scott Kelly, communications director for former state Sen. Van Wanggaard; Cindy Kilkenny, conservative blogger; Rik Kluessendorf, attorney and former state Assembly candidate; Dan Knodl, state representative, 24th District; Tif Koehler, campaign volunteer and civic leader; Johnny Koremenos, regional field director for Tommy Thompson campaign; Gordon Lang, member of North Shore Republicans; Chris Larsen, trustee in Village of Sturtevant Trustee; Noelle Lorraine, field coordinator for Americans for Prosperity; John P. Macy, first vice chairman of Waukesha County Republican Party; Kathleen Madden, Waukesha County Clerk of Circuit Court; Ginny Marschman, party activist; Jessica McBride, conservative columnist; Bill McCoshen political consultant and; former cabinet secretary for Gov. Tommy Thompson; Joe Medina, party activist; Randy Melchert, field director for Mark Neumann's campaign; Gerald Mellone, Brookfield alderman; Ryan Morgan, conservative blogger; Dean Munday, conservative blogger; Mark Neumann, U.S. Senate candidate and former congressman; Kelly O'Brien, founder of Shorewood Citizens for Responsible Government; Eric Wm. Olsen, conservative activist; Nick Oliver, state Assembly candidate, 22nd District; Victoria Ostry, treasurer of the Wisconsin Federation of Republican Women.; Rick Owen, Brookfield alderman; Monnine Parnitzke, party activist; Steve Ponto, mayor of Brookfield; Don Pridemore, state representative, 99th District; Paris Procopis, grassroots activist; Jim Pugh, director of public relations and issue management for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce; Denise Rate, Tea Party member; Bob Reddin, Brookfield alderman and executive director, Jobs First Coalition; Pam Reeves, treasurer, Waukesha County Republicans; Joe Rice, former county supervisor and member of North Shore Republicans Executive Committee; Nate Ristow, candidate for 13th District State Assembly; Brandon Rosner, Wisconsin Republican consultant; Bill Savage, aide to state Rep. Don Pridemore and officer of Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association; Jim Schaefer, Muskego-Norway School Board president; Josh Schimek, conservative blogger; JB Schmidt, conservative blogger; Christian Schneider, senior fellow at Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and former policy analyst for Wisconsin State Legislature; Ashley Schultz, state director of the Recall Action Fund; Nick Schweitzer, Libertarian pundit and blogger; Tim Schwister, former State Assembly candidate; Dan Sebring, vice chairman, Milwaukee County Republicans and candidate for 4th Congressional District; Cathy Stepp, Wisconsin Natural Resources secretary and former state senator; Jeff Stone, state representative, 82nd District; Jonathan Strasburg, attorney; Dave Swarthout, board member, 1st Congressional District Republicans; Charles Sykes, conservative talk show host for WTMJ Radio; Steve Taylor, Milwaukee County supervisor; Jenny Toftness, executive director of the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee; Greg Torres, Jefferson County supervisor; Jim Villa, former chief of staff to County Executive Scott Walker and Alberta Darling; current CEO of Commercial Association of REALTORS® Wisconsin; Robin Vos, state representative; 63rd District; Dan Vrakas, Waukesha County Executive; Yash Wadhwa, former State Assembly candidate; Jeff Wagner, conservative talk show host, WTMJ Radio; Tom Weatherston, candidate for 62nd Assembly District and Village of Caledonia trustee; Steve Welcenbach, head of the Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association and Tea Party activist; Todd Welch, Wisconsin state coordinator at Campaign for Liberty; James Wigderson, conservative blogger and columnist for Waukesha Freeman; Eddie Willing, conservative columnist in Racine County and executive director of FoundersIntent.org; Chris Wright, Sturtevant village trustee and former candidate for State Assembly; Phil Ziegler, CEO of InPro Inc. and party activist.