Friday’s exchange of letters between the election campaigns of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, in which Romney rejected Obama’s offer to drop the tax return issue if Romney will produce just three more years’ records, has moved the long-simmering brouhaha over Romney’s tax returns back to the front media burner. That’s many fewer than any presidential candidate has disclosed in decades, setting up the hearsay accusation disseminated joyfully by Harry Reid (who may or may not actually believe it) that Romney is afraid to tell voters that he sometimes pays no taxes at all. (Romney has answered that, saying he has never paid less than 13% in taxes on his income.) Meanwhile, Romney appears to have escaped relatively unsinged from the apparently unrelated revelation that he may have committed voter fraud in January 2010, when – despite not owning a house inMassachusetts and having given every appearance of having moved to California – he registered and voted in the Massachusetts special election to replace the deceased Senator Ted Kennedy. Given the GOP’s ongoing use of the “voter fraud” fable to justify modern Jim Crow laws and its highly-publicized persecution of the voter registration groupAcorn, an actual case of felony voter fraud committed by the Republican nominee could have been a big story – but Romney was able to tamp down the flames by claiming, not very credibly but also not disprovably, that he and Ann actually were living in their son Tagg’s Belmont, Massachusetts basement in 2010. Without proof that Romney lied about where he lived, there’s no felony – and no big national story.
Many (many, many, many, many, many) theories have been advanced to explain why Romney keeps refusing to produce any returns prior to 2010, ranging from “voters might learn he’s wealthy” (which voters already know) to “he underpaid his church tithe” (doubtful). None of them is really satisfactory, because none of them posits Romney concealing any facts more harmful than the blowback he is getting for not producing more returns. The problem may be that all of the prominent theories (with a couple of under-noticed exceptions) assume Romney is trying to conceal facts about his finances. Like the purloined letter pinned prominently in plain sight, what Romney’s really hiding might be something more mundane: the home address written on the top of the tax form. That address that might reveal a connection between the “tax returns” brouhaha and the “voter fraud” fizzle – which may be the strongest explanation of all. Here’s why.
Tax returns require taxpayers to state their residence address, and the Romney returns already produced, although partially redacted, state clearly that they lived in “Belmont, MA 02478” in 2012 (tax year 2011) (pdf) and 2011 (tax year 2010) (pdf):
The Romneys’ 2010 tax return
But the Romneys, arbitrarily, refuse to disclose a copy of the returns they filed in 2010 or 2009 (for tax years 2009 and 2008) – which, perhaps not coincidentally, bracket the time period when Romney allegedly committed fraud by voting in Massachusetts when he actually resided in California. So here’s the question: did Romney put his son’s basement’s address on the returns he filed in 2009 and 2010? Or did he truthfully use his real (non-Massachusetts) address, thus implicating himself in voter fraud?