(CNSNews.com) - Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney drew some boos at Thursday's debate in South Carolina when he hedged on how many years of tax returns he would release.
Romney said he will release his 2011 return in April, "when my taxes are complete for this year." He said he would "probably" release his returns "for other years as well."
But later, in response to a follow-up question, Romney said,"I -- you know, I don't know how many years I'll release. I'll take a look at what the -- the -- what our documents are." That remark drew jeers from some in the crowd, prompting Romney to add, "And I'll release multiple years; I don't know how many years. And -- but I'll be happy to do that."
Romney said he wants to release his tax returns in one batch to avoid what he called a drip-by-drip reaction from Democrats: "As -- as has been done in the past, if I'm the nominee, I'll put these out at one time so we have one discussion of all of this. I obviously pay all full taxes. I'm honest in my dealings with people. People understand that. (Applause.) My taxes are carefully managed. And I pay a lot of taxes. I've been very successful."
Romney said Democrats are "very anxious" to undermine his campaign. "I know the Democrats want to go after the fact that I've been successful. I'm not going to apologize for being successful," he said, drawing cheers and applause. "I know the Democrats will go after me on that basis, and that's why I want to release these things (tax returns) all at the same time."
Sure enough, in a statement issued after the Republican debate, the head of the Democratic Party portrayed Romney as a greedy tax-dodger who's out of touch with the middle class.
“For anyone hoping to get a straight answer from Romney on whether or not he will finally come clean with the American people and run a transparent campaign, tonight was a disappointment," said DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
"Romney ducked and dodged on whether or not he would agree to follow the precedent set by President Obama and previous presidential candidates by releasing his previous comprehensive federal income tax returns for multiple years. Even Romney’s father, George Romney, released twelve years of his tax returns when he ran for president. Mitt Romney, it seems, doesn’t want the American people to know more about the details of the roughly 15 percent rate he pays in taxes – a far lower rate than what is paid by the typical working family. And with news reports this week that Romney has millions of dollars invested in overseas accounts – tax havens like the Cayman Islands – it raises further questions about why Romney is dodging the issue altogether."
Democrats are not saying Romney has done anything illegal. But that's the implication in calling him a tax dodger. In her statement, Schultz also called him a corporate raider, concerned only about "reaping huge profits for himself and his investors."
"What was on his mind?" Schultz asked. "Just as one of his former colleagues has said, Mitt Romney had one goal, and one goal only -- creating wealth. Period."
Romney told the debate audience he didn't inherit money from his parents: "What I have, I earned. I worked hard, the American way." He said he's the one who knows "how the economy works, what it takes to put Americans back to work."
Romney said the real problem in America does not lie with people who have been successful. "The challenge in America -- and President Obama doesn't want to talk about this -- is you got a president who's played 90 rounds of golf while there are 25 million Americans out of work. And -- and -- (cheers, applause) -- and you've got -- and -- and while the price of gasoline has doubled, he said no to the Keystone pipeline. And while we've got 15 trillion (dollars) of debt, he said, look, I'm going to put another trillion of debt for 'Obamacare.' That's the problem in America..."