Washington • Presidential candidates traditionally have offered several years of their tax returns for voter scrutiny, but the Republican nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney has refused to release more than a year's worth of records and a brief summary of another.
Romney's refusal has drawn fire from Democrats and President Barack Obama and even some conservatives, but now one member of Congress wants to force the disclosure.
Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., plans to introduce legislation to require presidential candidates to release 10 years of tax returns and disclose any overseas accounts.
Romney previously had a Swiss bank account and still may have some accounts in the Caribbean.
"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 this week.
Most modern White House contenders have voluntarily released multiple years of their returns, showing voters their income, deductions and tax rates. Obama has released 12 years of his tax filings. But Romney says he already has shown more than the law requires.
Levin says it's time to strengthen that law.
"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," the congressman said.
Americans seem to be onboard with more disclosure, according to a poll out Thursday. Most, including a third of Republicans, want Romney to reveal more than he has released, according to a poll by USA Today and Gallup.
About 44 percent of respondents believe there would be damaging information in Romney's returns, and a smaller percent said it would be so harmful that it could show he's unfit for office.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who has served as a surrogate for Romney, says the debate about tax returns is simply an attempt by his opponents to taint his candidacy and dismisses Levin's legislation as a political ploy.
"If that's the Democrats' best shot at Mitt Romney, they are going to be on the losing end," Chaffetz said. "[Former Massachusetts] Governor Romney has released everything required by law."
Saying that Democrats are "grasping at straws," Chaffetz noted that Romney has been fully vetted for more than a decade.
"You can't be the governor of Massachusetts and twice run for president without being well-vetted."
Matt Canham contributed to this story.