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Team Obama offers a tax-return deal

Mitt Romney clearly has a tax-return problem: he has them, but despite calls from his own party to release the materials, he still refuses. Maybe the Republican would be willing to strike a deal?

Republican media consultant Alex Castellanos thinks Romney should trade 10 years of tax returns for "10 years of birth certificates" from President Obama. That's deeply dumb, but the idea of striking some kind of agreement on this may have some value.

Jim Messina, the Obama for America campaign manager, sent a letter this morning to Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades, offering a proposed deal.

"I am writing to ask again that the Governor release multiple years of tax returns, but also to make an offer that should address his concerns about the additional disclosures. Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide. So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: if the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more–neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign.

"This request for the release of five years, covering the complete returns for 2007-2012, is surely not unreasonable. Other Presidential candidates have released more, including the Governor's father who provided 12 years of returns. In the Governor's case, a five year release would appropriately span all the years that he has been a candidate for President. It would also help answer outstanding questions raised by the one return he has released to date, such as the range in the effective rates paid, the foreign accounts maintained, the foreign investments made, and the types of tax shelters used.

"To provide these five years, the Governor would have to release only three more sets of returns in addition to the 2010 return he has released and the 2011 return he has pledged to provide. And, I repeat, the Governor and his campaign can expect in return that we will refrain from questioning whether he has released enough or pressing for more."

This strikes me as an overly-generous offer -- since Romney has already released the 2010 documents, and swears he'll get around to releasing 2011 one of these days, Team Obama is basically only asking for three years' worth of returns. Romney disclosed 23 years of materials to John McCain's campaign, but Messina is saying the questions will stop if Romney simply provides tax returns for a few more years, not 23.

One assumes Team Romney will turn down the deal -- three years is more than zero -- and the questions will persist. Maybe, at some point, Romney will even come up with an explanation as to why the tax returns have to remain secret.

Update: As expected, Romney rejected the offer.