Former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman joined his father in criticizing Mitt Romney for not releasing more tax returns, taking a direct shot at the man he professes to support.
“Anyone running for president should be willing to at least meet the standards required of those who will be appointed and confirmed by the Senate for senior executive branch positions. Something I’m familiar with having been confirmed three times,” Huntsman said. “This is called leadership by example.”
Huntsman had to disclose his own tax returns when he was confirmed by the Senate to be ambassador to Singapore, a deputy U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush and most recently the U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama.
The Romney campaign has released one partial year of the candidate’s 2010 tax returns and has said it will release the 2011 return when it is ready. But Romney has steadfastly refused to release any additional tax returns, breaking with a long-standing tradition among presidential candidates.
“My guess is if you decide to do more and more and more, you just give … the opposition the chance to distort and twist and be dishonest about more material,” Romney told NBC News recently.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who was chief of staff during Huntsman’s first year as governor and now has been stumping for the Romney campaign, said that Romney has complied with all of the financial reporting requirements in the law and will release two years of tax returns — the same as was released by Arizona Sen. John McCain when he was the nominee.
Romney’s father, George Romney, began the practice of releasing tax returns when he disclosed a dozen years of returns in his unsuccessful bid for the White House in 1968. Since then, presidential candidates typically have voluntarily released several years of returns.
Huntsman’s comment came on the heels of similar criticism from his father, billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., who has been a longtime Romney supporter.
“I feel very badly that Mitt won’t release his taxes and won’t be fair with the American people,” Huntsman Sr. told The Washington Post on Friday.
“Mr. Romney ought to square with the American people and release his taxes like any other candidate,” the elder Huntsman said. “I’ve supported Mitt all along. I wish him well. But I do think he should release his income taxes.”
The Romney campaign declined Saturday to comment on either Huntsman’s remarks.
The senior Huntsman also denied that he was the secret source who Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says told him that Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years. Speculation was rife on several blogs, most notably The Daily Kos, that Huntsman Sr. had been Reid’s informant.
“I have absolutely no knowledge of Bain or Mitt Romney’s tax return.” And he said he never talked to Reid about it.
Huntsman Sr. was Romney’s 2008 national finance chairman and backed his son’s campaign during the 2012 contest, investing several million dollars into a Super PAC supporting the former Utah governor.
“They’re entitled to their own opinion. The fact is that Mitt Romney has disclosed everything that has been required by law,” Chaffetz said. “I think there’s an insatiable desire to request more records that you’ll never satisfy the Democrats with their desire to want to release more records … This is just a fiction and a thinly veiled attempt to try to distract from President Obama’s record.”
Kirk Jowers, a Romney adviser and University of Utah political science professor, speaking to Huntsman Sr.’s comments, said Romney shouldn’t release any more than he has already committed to turning over.
“I have a lot of respect for Mr. Huntsman, but in this case the political realities dictate that Romney should not give the Obama team any more fuel to the fire to run negative and untrue ads,” Jowers said.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, also a former presidential contender, told Politico last month that Romney should release his taxes. Former Mississippi governor and Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour told the National Review he should release them as well. Several other Republican politicians and conservative pundits have also called for the disclosure.