After all the trouble Mitt Romney has had with his secret tax returns, you'd think other politicians would take steps to avoid the same mess. Wisconsin's Tommy Thompson, a former four-term governor who's now running for the Senate, apparently missed the memo.
The problem is, Thompson used to release all of his tax returns, right up until he left Wisconsin, worked at a DC lobbying firm, and made lots of money. Now, Thompson, who was also a member of the Bush/Cheney cabinet, prefers secrecy.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Thompson's Democratic opponent, is taking advantage of this in a new ad featured above, but here's the exact Thompson quote from last week, unedited: "When I was governor and I was employed [by] the people of the State of Wisconsin, I released my tax returns, but I've been in the business world, and the question is, 'Am I going to release my tax returns?' The answer is 'no'. No. The answer is 'N-O.' What part don't you understand?"
He makes it sound, in a rather crotchety way, that private-sector experience necessarily translates into justifiable secrecy.
In an amusing twist, Thompson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he paid a 31 percent tax rate. Asked to substantiate the claim with his tax returns, the Republican refused again. Voters are just supposed to take his word for it.
As Romney can attest, all this does is reinforce suspicions. Indeed, with Thompson, it's arguably worse -- Romney has always opposed disclosure, but Thompson used to make his returns available every year, which only makes observers wonder what changed.