Full disclosure: Romney should offer answers and more tax returns

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There are bigger issues for the presidential contenders than what Republican nominee Mitt Romney did at Bain Capital more than a decade ago or how much money he has made since. If Mr. Romney wants to shift the debate from questions about his leadership of the private-equity firm and his personal wealth, he should address them head on rather than talk around them.

President Barack Obama has charged that Mr. Romney shipped American jobs to other countries when he ran Bain Capital. The Obama campaign also accuses Mr. Romney of a lack of candor in describing when he ceded control of the company.

Mr. Romney says he cannot be held responsible for a Bain-owned steel plant that went bankrupt in 2001, claiming he had no active operating role at Bain after 1999. But the Boston Globe, citing documents filed by Bain with the Securities and Exchange Commission, reported that Mr. Romney was chief executive through 2002.

The candidate has offered some hair-splitting attempts to resolve this discrepancy and demanded that Mr. Obama apologize for campaign ads on alleged outsourcing, accusing the president of having a worse record on it.

None of these attempts to change the subject suffices. If Mr. Romney can produce documents from Bain that show clearly when he left the company, he should do so. If he can't or won't, he has no reason to complain.

Mr. Romney makes further problems for himself by refusing to release federal income tax returns. He has disclosed his 2010 return and pledges to do the same for 2011. But he refuses to release returns for previous years, including when he was CEO of Bain.

That is less disclosure than most recent presidential nominees have made. His father, George Romney, issued 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in 1968. During a visit to Pittsburgh and Westmoreland County on Tuesday, Mitt Romney did not indicate that he would release more.

It's understandable that Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have made repeat visits to Pennsylvania, a state that will be pivotal in the November election. As Mr. Romney seeks Pennsylvania voters' support, he's more likely to win it by leveling with them now than later.

opinion_editorials


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