Opinion

Romney should just release his tax returns

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Lanny Davis
Former Special Counsel to President Clinton
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      Lanny Davis

      Lanny J. Davis counsels individuals, corporations and government contractors, and those under congressional scrutiny, on crisis management and legal issues by developing legal, media and legislative strategies that are designed to best produce a successful result for the client. He has experience in securities fraud and SEC investigations as well, and has found that utilizing such an integrated legal/media/lobbying approach can lead to quicker and less expensive settlements or even successfully litigated outcomes. Senior officials of public companies have also hired Lanny and his crisis group to defend themselves successfully against "short and distort" attacks and other market manipulations. For 25 years prior to 1996, before his tenure as special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny was a commercial, antitrust, government contracts and False Claims Act litigator (both in defense as well as plaintiff). He has argued numerous appellate cases in the U.S. courts of appeals.

      In June 2005, President Bush appointed Lanny to serve on the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelligence Reform Act. In that capacity, he received the highest level security clearances so that he could be fully briefed and "read in" to the various anti-terrorist surveillance and financial tracking programs at the highest classified level. From 1996 to 1998, Lanny served as special counsel to the president in the White House and was a spokesperson for the president and the White House on matters concerning campaign finance investigations and other legal issues. Lanny has participated in national, state and local politics for almost 30 years. He has served three terms (1980 to 1992) on the Democratic National Committee representing the state of Maryland, and during that period he served on the DNC Executive Committee and as chairman of the Eastern Region Caucus. In Montgomery County, Maryland, he served as chairman of the Washington Suburban Transit Commission.

      Lanny has authored several books and lectured throughout the United States and Europe on various political issues. Between 1990 and 1996, Lanny was a bimonthly commentator on Maryland politics for WAMU-88.5/FM, a Washington, D.C. local affiliate of National Public Radio. He has been a regular television commentator and has been a political and legal analyst for MSNBC, CNN, Fox Cable, CNBC and network TV news programs. He has published numerous op-ed/analysis pieces in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, he Washington Post and other national publications.

      Lanny graduated from Yale Law School, where he won the prestigious Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal. A graduate of Yale University, Lanny served as chairman of the Yale Daily News.

      Lanny is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Connecticut and before the Supreme Court of the United States and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Yes, Gov. Romney, that subtitle to my memoir concerning the rules we learned the hard way at the Clinton White House in 1996-98 about getting the truth out yourself proactively, even if it is a bad-news story, applies to you and the issue of your tax returns.

It applies to everyone facing bad news — in business, politics and life.

The only exception is if putting the facts out can land you in jail. In that case, I recommend forgetting about crisis management rules and relying on the advice of a good criminal lawyer.

If you stay where you are, you are defying history — in both parties. As my favorite source of truth, Glenn Kessler, pointed out in his Monday “Fact-Checker” column for The Washington Post, virtually every other presidential candidate in both parties going back to FDR released many years of tax returns when they ran for president against the incumbent. Why wouldn’t you too?

Here’s what I am betting you are worried about: that your tax returns show you broke the Buffett Rule in some years and, thanks to various legal devices and tax loopholes, you managed to avoid paying more taxes than you were legally required to do.

Shocking!

So, I ask you — after the Obama campaign denounces you for paying lower taxes than your secretary, or using tax loopholes legally, or depositing your money legally in Swiss bank accounts, or in Cayman Islands bank accounts, or storing your cash under your bed, or whatever, my question to you, to your campaign manager, to everyone, including my fellow liberal, Obama-supporting Democrats, is:

SO WHAT?

Let’s assume the possible worst case (which I must assume is at least partially true, or why else are you violating Crisis Management Rule 101?):

Let’s assume you paid NO taxes in some years, or got a REFUND in others, on hundreds of millions of dollars of income, taking advantage of all the loopholes, deductions, write-offs, tax shelters, etc. — but again, ALL LEGALLY.

My question again — knowing that my fellow liberal supporters of President Obama (and maybe I too!) will make fun of you, mock you, accuse you of being wealthy and not paying your “fair share” (a favorite expression of us progressives, who don’t like wealthy people paying too little in taxes, albeit legally), my question still is —

SO WHAT?

Ultimately, you have to believe — you just have to — that the American people have common sense and can see through hypocrisy and humbug in politics.

And what would be hypocrisy and humbug? When (not if) we liberals (and President Obama’s campaign) make a big deal in the media and in paid negative ads out of someone choosing not to voluntarily pay more in taxes than he was legally required to.