Romney Hid His Returns in 2002 Mass. Governor’s Race, Too – and When One Secret Came to Light, It Proved He’d Lied about His Eligibility to Serve

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As George Will said about Mitt Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns, “The cost of not releasing the returns are clear. Therefore, he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.” Last week we learned that whatever it is he is hiding may not be new.

Rachel Maddow and her producers did a little digging and found that, in 2002, when he was running for governor of Massachusetts, Romney was equally adamant that he would not release his tax returns. A key issue then was Romney’s eligibility to serve as governor. Massachusetts law requires that in order to serve as governor, candidates must have resided in the state for the previous seven consecutive years. Because Romney had lived in Utah full time while he ran the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, it seemed obvious he did not meet that requirement.

One way to tell for sure would be to see which state, Massachusetts or Utah, Romney listed as his primary residence on his IRS forms. Romney and his adviser, Eric “Etch-A-Sketch” Fernhstrom vehemently denied that Romney had filed as a full-time resident of Utah. It was later revealed they were lying — Romney had amended his returns to change his claim of full-time residency in Utah to full-time residency in Massachusetts — retroactively.

Here’s the transcript of Maddow discussing Romney’s tax-returns dodge in 2002, which picks up around minute 06:40 in the video above:

RACHEL MADDOW: It makes sense that people are focusing on Harry Reid, but there are two things from the public record of Mitt Romney`s life as a politician that should change or at least inflect the way this is being discussed.

And the first is that if you don’t like the way Harry Reid is making this accusation, if you don’t like the way he’s approaching this, if you think it’s unfair or unseemly, you should at least know that Mitt Romney himself has done this exact same thing that he is complaining is being done to him now.

In 2002, when Mitt Romney was running for Massachusetts governor, he would not release his tax returns. All of the candidates running on the Democratic side, Robert Reich, Tom Birmingham, Shannon O’Brien, who became the ultimate Democratic nominee, they all released multiple years of tax returns. But Mitt Romney on the Republican side, would not release his.

So, when it came time for the general election, you got a Democrat, Shannon O’Brien, who has released her tax returns, and you’ve got the Republican, Mitt Romney, who has not released his tax returns. From that position, as the guy who hasn’t released his returns, Mitt Romney attacks Shannon O’Brien for her husband not releasing his tax returns.


ROMNEY: Shannon O’Brien’s husband with whom I presume their share expenses, likewise, hasn’t released his income taxes.


MADDOW: I won’t release my tax returns, but your husband must.

Your returns aren’t good enough. I need to see your husband’s too, but no, you can’t see mine?

Look at this reporting from April 2002. One day after balking at releasing his own tax returns, the Romney campaign launches this attack on Shannon O’Brien. Quote, “Her hands aren’t clean,” said Romney deputy campaign manager Eric [“Etch-a-Sketch”] Fehrnstrom — oh, yes, remember him — of O’Brien’s release of her tax return but not the filings of her husband. Quote, “She can’t claim to be disclosing anything until she discloses the returns of her husband.” He went on to say, “What is she hiding?”

This is the campaign that’s not releasing anything, yelling at the campaign that has released its tax returns, what are you hiding?

Fast forward 10 years, and now it’s Harry Reid bellowing at Mitt Romney and Eric Fehrnstrom, what are you hiding? And Mitt Romney and Eric Fehrnstrom are whining and complaining about this horrible tactic and how unfair it is, and the whole press is going along with them, without looking back into Mitt Romney’s history to see that he has done the exact same thing.

If you go to, we can’t release the whole article, but it’s locked into “Boston Herald’s” archives, but we posted the date and headline and reporter and you can be enterprising and find a way to pay for it online somehow so you can see for yourself that Mitt Romney did this exact same thing that Harry Reid is now doing to Romney that the whole press says is so awful.

So, I said there are two things about Mr. Romney’s past that should redirect the current furor in the presidential campaign right now. One is that he’s guilty of the exact same thing Harry Reid is doing — actually, even a worse variant of the same thing that he is now whining about with all of the support in the press. But the other thing, it’s more important, and actually, it’s the whole largely missed but most important point of the whole Mitt Romney tax question writ large, which becomes crystal clear when you look at his record in Massachusetts, and that is that Mr. Romney is not only refusing to release his tax returns. He’s not just saying no to that request, he’s making positive empirical claims about what is in his tax returns.

He’s not just saying, no, you can’t see them. He`s saying, no, you can’t see them and let me tell you what’s in them.


ROMNEY: Let me also say categorically, I have paid taxes every year, and a lot of taxes.

My view is I have paid all the taxes required by law. I don’t pay more than are legally due.

REPORTER: A spokesperson would only reiterate, “Mitt Romney has paid his taxes in full compliance with U.S. law and he has paid 100 percent of what he has owed.

ROMNEY: I obviously pay all full taxes, I’m honest in my dealings with people. People understand that.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Is there some secret? People know you’re wealthy.

ROMNEY: Yes, I understand.

MITCHELL: There’s nothing to hide.

ROMNEY: No, I agree, there’s nothing to hide.


MADDOW: These are all assertions by Mitt Romney himself and from his campaign dating from today all the way back to last year. That last comment to Andrea Mitchell was December of last year.

I have nothing to hide. Trust me. I have paid a lot of taxes. I have never paid zero taxes. I have paid many dollars in taxes. I have paid every dollar I’m legally required to. I have paid 100 percent of what I legally owe, trust me.

And this is what has been lost in this campaign furor around Mr. Romney’s taxes and him not releasing his tax returns. That’s that his response is not just — no, you can’t see my taxes. His response is — no, you can’t see my taxes, but let me tell you what’s in them. Trust me.

And what’s important about that is that Mitt Romney has done this before. He did this in Massachusetts in 2002.

Massachusetts Democrats said in 2002 that Mitt Romney was not eligible to run for governor in the state because the state constitution says you have to have been a resident of Massachusetts for seven years before you can run for governor. In trying to prove that allegation, they asserted that Mr. Romney’s tax returns would show that he had not filed his taxes as a Massachusetts resident. They thought that should disqualify him from being able to run for governor in the state.


JAMES ROOSEVELT, JR., MA DEM PARTY COUNSEL: We believe that Mitt Romney is not qualified under the Massachusetts constitution to be governor because he declared himself to be a nonresident of Massachusetts.


MADDOW: So for their own reasons, because they were trying to get him kicked off the ballot, Massachusetts Democrats asserted that Mitt Romney’s taxes showed him declaring himself to be a non-resident of Massachusetts. The Romney campaign denied this. They went to reporters and denied that allegation from the Democrats.

“Romney filed his taxes as a resident of both Utah and Massachusetts in 1999 and 2000, and plans to do the same for 2001,” said Romney spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom.

They wouldn’t release the tax returns, wouldn’t show them to anyone, but they said trust me. Eric Fehrnstrom and Mitt Romney said trust us. The tax returns show that Mitt Romney filed as a Massachusetts resident. That’s what they said. They were lying.


REPORTER: The Democrats point to Romney’s house in Utah, which was listed as his primary residence, to support a challenge. They also want to see his tax returns.

ROOSEVELT: We have now learned from his own lips this afternoon that Mr. Romney lied yesterday when he said he had filed resident tax returns in both Massachusetts and Utah.

REPORTER: Romney acknowledged today he amended his 1999 and 2000 Massachusetts state tax returns to make him a resident here.


MADDOW: To make him a resident here retroactively. So after saying all along for months to the people of Massachusetts, trust me, I have been filing my tax returns as a Massachusetts resident, it finally came out under pressure that was not true. He had to go back retroactively and refile as a Massachusetts resident because he hadn’t filed as a Massachusetts resident despite what he was saying in public.

He said, trust me I have, when he had not.

The Romney campaign had held on to that line until the very last moment. Literally days before Mr. Romney finally had to admit, OK, no, I didn’t file as a Massachusetts resident, up until that week, he and Eric Fehrnstrom were still saying trust us.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Romney rejected a request by “The Globe” for copies of his returns with financial information redacted but his residential status visible. A Romney spokesman later identified by the globe as Eric Fehrnstrom insisted at the time that the GOP candidate had filed as a Massachusetts resident but told “The Globe” reporter you’re going to have to take my word for it. Days later, it turns out the word is worth nothing, at least when it comes to taxes. He was lying.

Ten years later, they’re saying everything he has ever done in his taxes is lawful. He’s never paid zero taxes. He’s paid every dollar he’s owed. He’s paid a ton of taxes. Trust us.

It’s a neat assertion. But it is an empirical assertion, checkable, and the people trying to vet Mitt Romney for president would like to be able to fact check that assertion. Presumably, you guys are making that assertion because you think it has political import. Therefore, you either need to be very trust worthy in your assertion of these things or need to let us check for ourselves as the American people and the press. And not only are you not letting us check for ourselves, but you have proven yourself in public life to be the opposite of trust worthy on this issue.

Ten years ago, you lost the benefit of the doubt on this issue.


Full transcript of the segment follows on Page 2


  • Paula
    August 8, 2012 - 11:27 am | Permalink

    Mitt is so greedy that he tries every angle to pay no tax or the least amount even if he has to do so retroactively. He lies about his taxes, is secretive about his bundlers, lies about Obama’s policies, etc. He was/is an elder in the Mormon religion and yet he has no moral or ethical principles.

  • Smitty_PA
    August 8, 2012 - 2:02 pm | Permalink

    This should end his campaign. It won’t, but it should.

  • Jaltair
    August 8, 2012 - 9:00 pm | Permalink

    The rhetoric caused by Senator Reid surrounding tax returns of Presidential nominee, Governor Romney, has been created to take focus off the real problem of this country, the economy.

    The problems in 2002 and residency was a lame excuse for Romney not to be governor. If you have two states that you reside in, you pay taxes in both. I’m sure he was a resident of Utah at least part-time while he ran the Olympic Games in that state.

    You can bet Mitt Romney has paid all taxes legally required. Most likely, the 2011 taxes are still in the process of being paid. I can’t imagine all the pages required in a tax return for someone being so wealthy.
    Liberals seem to dislike wealth, those who own businesses and corporational enterprises. Do liberals not understand basic economics and the need for those who do own wealth and for those who run large corporations?

    The liberal movement today seems to carry an aura of conceit of superiority; i.e., only they, the liberals, are taking the higher road, the moral side and all the conservatives are immoral, ignorant, mean, want people to starve, and worse. This aura permeates the educational systems from elementary to universities. A select group, possibly a new proletariat, is rising and those not at the level need encouragement and help. This proletariat becomes a parent to the populace to decide how all things should be as the populace doesn’t have the understanding that the proletariat has. This is a very dangerous path that will undermine fundamental freedoms historically fought for by the American people. Liberalism is the new threat to freedom and the Republic of the United States of America.

    • Earl fm TN
      August 9, 2012 - 3:33 am | Permalink

      @Jaltair: It’s not just liberals who are calling on R-money to release his taxes. George Will, Bill Kristol, Michael Steele, Texas tea bagger Rep. Pete Sessions, Haley Barbour, Matthew Dowd and other Repugs have demanded that he put up or shut up.

      Plus, McCain and Steve Schmidt KNOW what R-money is hiding. They saw his secrets when they were vetting him for VP in 08 and whatever he’s hiding caused them to reject R-money and choose Mathilda the Hun for VP instead. They could clear this up in a skinny second by vouching for R-money but they are stone silent.

      These right wingers must know that R-money is hiding a felony — a tax amnesty or something that proves he lied under oath — and they want it out now so they can choose another nominee in time for the convention which starts in three weeks.

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  • Paula
    August 9, 2012 - 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Look up “son of boss” another tax dodge Romney used when he ws head of marriott’s audit board. It just keeps getting worse……..will he be dumped at the GOP convention…….

  • Indie in CT
    August 10, 2012 - 6:31 am | Permalink

    Another point — He is GENERALIZING WHAT taxes he paid ! *WE* the people, are talking about INCOME taxes! Specifically FED taxes. *HE* is saying TAXES ! IF by saying he PAID all taxes he was legally required to pay, Well, if you buy a CUP OF COFFEE, you have to pay the SALES taxes, and ditto anything else you buy! Or REAL ESTATE taxes, pay that or you lose your house to the state. So the MSM NEEDS to ask SPECIFICALLY *WHAT* taxes we are talking about. IF he is willing to lie about what state he was in and where he listed his primary residence, he is MORE THen willing to *BEND* The truth about what taxes he is talking about.

  • August 10, 2012 - 7:42 am | Permalink

    Excellent point, Indie in CT.

  • Jaltair
    August 10, 2012 - 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Earl from TN and CT – Excellent points. I would personally like to see him release his taxes as well; however, if he doesn’t, what option do I have but to vote for him to keep Obama from getting in again for another four years.

    I’m a true centrist in that I support a more liberal approach to social programs; however, I don’t believe people should be encouraged to become part of them. 1/3 of our population receives federal assistance, and this doesn’t include Medicare or Social Security. That’s a lot of people! Our system is not able to support that type of continued subsidy. There will have to be some deep cuts in this area. I’m conservative when it comes to securing our country’s future.

    To me it is scary to think what could happen with Obama in for another four years. I really can’t support Obama, I did in his first campaign until I researched and understood him more, and then I switched to McCain.

    So, in light of another four years of increased federal government (see my first post), I’d choose Mitt Romney. The only way our country can get back on track right now is to take a more conservative approach.

    • Madison
      August 10, 2012 - 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jaltair – Why do you think Obama wants people to be on government assistance? Newt and Rush Limbaugh suggest that it’s because he’s black.

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  • jaltair
    August 18, 2012 - 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Madison – Obama adopted Saul Alinsky’s Ideals. Make people dependent on the government, and then when the government collapses such as in a severe economic regression, you can do away with any form of moderation in the economy (checks and balances) and then have a radical command economy, which is dictation of the proletariat.
    That command economy makes sure the average person would get the minimum.

    Some people will accept a substandard lifestyle if they are guaranteed security. People will sacrifice wealth and have a substandard lifestyle if they are guaranteed security. This is socialism or communism.

    This is the only logical conclusion. Obama wants America to be equal status with other countries.

    • Madison
      August 19, 2012 - 2:00 pm | Permalink

      jaltair – Saul Alinsky never advocated anything remotely like that. Saul Alinsky was not a socialist and neither is Obama. In fact, Obama is not even a liberal. He’s a DLC-style middle of the roader. You are seriously misinformed.

      The wreckage this country is experiencing is a result of the malfeasance and/or incompetence of the Republicans who had a stranglehold on the government — the White House, the Congress and the Judiciary — in the previous decade. I tend to believe it was out of sheer ineptitude that they collapsed the economy and bungled the wars they started — for example, Dear Leader Bush left office after eight years without a single success, just one disaster after another and another.

      But there are those who believe that Bush, Cheney, McConnell, Boehner, Paul Ryan et al deliberately crashed the economy a la the Shock Doctrine in order to hand the country over to their corporate sponsors and wealthy benefactors. These plutocrats, the theory goes, are hellbent on replacing the republic with an Ayn Randian dystopia — an oligarchy, like Mexico or the old Confederacy, with a tiny cabal of uber-wealthy Donald Trumps, Koch brothers and Mitt Romneys in absolute control, sitting atop an ever-shrinking middle class and a vast sprawling under class that has to scrounge garbage dumps for food.

      But the idea that conservatives are competent enough to pull off something like that is just too far-fetched for me.

      In any case, it was Republican mismanagement of this country that has produced the substandard lifestyle we have now. We’re ranked seventh worldwide in quality of life, thanks to Republican policies that are shrinking the middle class, and 38th in life expectancy, thanks to the current disastrous “free market” health care system that Republicans are determined to preserve.

      There is not a dime’s bit of difference between George Bush and Mitt Romney, as we’ve seen with Romney’s clown car of a campaign. If Americans decide to elect him in November, it will be essentially a third term for Bush — an opportunity for Republicans to finish the job they started and bring this great country to its knees.

  • Nott Romney 2012
    August 19, 2012 - 11:15 am | Permalink

    “all the conservatives are immoral, ignorant, mean, want people to starve, and worse” quoted from Jaltair

    I wonder if you can get this on T-shirts…

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