Dem bill would require 10 years of tax disclosures by presidential candidates

A senior House Democrat on Wednesday promised to introduce legislation requiring all presidential candidates to release a decade of their tax returns.

The effort by Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, is aimed at presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has come under increasing pressure to release more of his returns. 

“The stunning lack of transparency from someone in pursuit of the highest office in the country highlights the need to change the law to require fuller disclosure,” Levin said in a statement. 

“For decades, presidential candidates have voluntarily provided a thorough accounting of their tax returns and finances, as they should. But we clearly cannot continue to rely solely on the willingness of a candidate to disclose fully what the public has a right to know about the candidate’s financial record.”

Levin said that his upcoming bill would give voters a clearer picture of a candidate’s financial situation. 

The bill, Levin said, would require disclosure of the amount and location of offshore accounts or investments that weren’t in publicly traded companies; the amount of carried interest income a candidate has; and details of a candidate’s financial arrangements with outside companies.

Levin’s legislation comes as President Obama’s campaign has blasted Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and executive of a private-equity firm, for not being transparent enough about his tax records. 

Democrats have also raised questions about Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, the private-equity firm, after the Boston Globe reported that Securities and Exchange Commission filings placed Romney as the firm’s chief executive three years after he said he had left.

The Democratic drumbeat on Romney’s taxes, as well as his use of bank accounts in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, has put the likely Republican nominee on the defensive in recent weeks. 

The former Massachusetts governor has released his 2010 returns, which showed he paid just under a 14 percent rate on more than $20 million in income, and has said he will release his 2011 returns. 

But he also suggested to the National Review, an influential conservative magazine, that he wouldn’t go any further, suggesting that he did not want to give the Obama campaign “hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort, and lie about.”

On Tuesday, National Review and several Republican senators urged Romney to release more returns, saying that would allow him to return to his economic message.

But House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerJohn Feehery: GOP: Listen to Reince House GOP budget 'SWAT' team is formed GOP rep to retire, opening 10th Florida seat MORE (R-Ohio) on Wednesday offered a forceful defense of Romney.

BoehnerJohn BoehnerJohn Feehery: GOP: Listen to Reince House GOP budget 'SWAT' team is formed GOP rep to retire, opening 10th Florida seat MORE, speaking after several prominent Republicans and conservatives suggested Romney release more returns to change the subject, called the issue a "sideshow" and said voters are "not asking where in the hell the tax returns are."

"Whether it’s the tax returns, whether it’s Bain Capital, you’ll see every distraction known to man because the president can’t run on his record," Boehner said at the end of a House GOP news conference.

"It is not about the tax returns. It’s about the economy. The American people vote with their wallet."

This story was updated at 12:11 p.m.