Did he or didn't he? This is the oddly intriguing question swirling around Mitt Romney as critics contend that he may have paid no income tax for some portion of the last 10 years.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has become chief inquisitor in this weird populist trial, claiming that a "successful businessman" familiar with Romney's finances told him that the Republican presidential candidate paid no taxes for a decade. There's a McCarthyist air to Reid's charge--since there's no proof that it's true--yet it may also be politically effective, since Romney already struggles with an aristocratic, out-of-touch image.
If Romney has paid taxes, as he insists, he could clear up the whole controversy by simply releasing several years' worth of tax returns, beyond the 2010 return and the 2011 estimate he's already released. But he has refused, and there may be good reason for that. "I wouldn't be surprised if he paid nearly zero taxes in 2008 and 2009," says Brad Badertscher
, an accounting professor at the University of Notre Dame. "It's going to look bad no matter what he does."
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