Senator John Kerry has been working on his Mitt Romney impersonation since being cast as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in mock debates with President Obama, but lately it has been Romney likening himself to Kerry, as he seeks to justify releasing only two years of tax returns.
Romney and his surrogates have repeatedly claimed that Kerry, the Democratic nominee in 2004, made public just two years of tax returns, despite the fact that Kerry released five years of tax documents and consistently released earlier returns during his Senate races.
On Monday, after Romney brought Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, into the argument, the senator’s office blasted Romney, accusing him of “conjuring up false and convoluted alibis.”
“As Senator [Daniel Patrick] Moynihan once said, people are entitled to their own opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own facts,” said David Wade, Kerry’s chief of staff and the Democrat’s national spokesman during the presidential race eight years ago.
“The Romney campaign needs to stop getting their facts wrong about John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry,” Wade added, saying Kerry had put a total of 20 years of tax returns into the public domain by the time he ran for president.
In an interview on Fox News Channel Monday morning, Romney—under pressure from not only the Obama campaign but also some in his own party to release additional tax returns—suggested he is the victim of a double standard.
“John Kerry ran for president; you know, his wife, who has hundreds of millions of dollars—she never released her tax returns,” Romney said. “Somehow this wasn’t an issue.”
In fact, Heinz Kerry’s reluctance to release tax returns, which she files separately from her husband, was a major story line during the 2004 presidential race. She eventually made public the first two pages of her 2003 return, which showed she earned $5.1 million that year, almost all of it from interest and dividends on investments. She paid $627,150 in federal taxes in 2003, only 12.3 percent of her total income.
Heinz Kerry inherited a vast fortune from her first husband, the late Senator H. John Heinz III of Pennsylvania, whose family founded the HJ Heinz Company. Heinz Kerry’s net worth was estimated at more than $500 million at the time of the election, and for months Republicans pushed aggressively for her to release tax documents, arguing they were critical brush strokes in a portrait of the Kerrys’ collective wealth.
Wade criticized Romney for invoking Heinz Kerry as a standard for tax disclosure.
“Mitt Romney ought to speak for himself instead of trying to deflect attention by making inaccurate comments about Senator Kerry’s wife, Teresa, who has never been a candidate for any office, and who inherited trusts established after the sudden and tragic death of her husband, Senator John Heinz, in a plane crash,” Wade said.
The Romney campaign declined to respond to the reaction from Kerry’s office and did not answer a Globe question about the basis of its claims.
Romney has been citing Kerry in his defense of limited tax return releases since April, when he said in an interview on CNBC that “we’ve had people run for president before, and they’ve released two years. John Kerry released two years of taxes.”
Even after multiple news outlets reported that Romney’s tally of Kerry tax returns was inaccurate, the Romney campaign has continued to repeat it.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, host David Gregory included Kerry on a list of presidential candidates who have released “a lot more than the two years that Mitt Romney is proposing to release,” when asking Romney adviser Ed Gillespie a question. As Gregory spoke, an onscreen graphic credited Kerry with five years of tax returns.
Undeterred, Gillespie replied that “the standard of releasing fully two years of returns, which goes above what the law requires, was a standard that Senator John McCain had adhered to as the Republican nominee in the last presidential campaign. This is the standard Senator Kerry adhered to as the Democratic nominee in the election before that.”
Wade expressed Kerry’s frustration with being used on Romney’s side of the tax return debate.
“Here we are months later, and on national television they’re still falling back on disproven excuses and even making up new false ones invoking Senator Kerry’s wife,” Wade said.