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Harry Reid: One time this guy called and said Romney didn’t pay taxes for ten years

By Doug Powers  •  August 1, 2012 09:23 AM

**Written by Doug Powers

Heard it from a friend who
Heard it from a friend who
Heard it from another Mitt’s been messin’ around

–REO Reidwagon

Have you heard? Harry Reid knows a guy who knows another guy whose uncle is fairly certain Mitt Romney didn’t pay any taxes for a decade… or something like that:

In a wide-ranging interview with The Huffington Post from his office on Capitol Hill, Reid saved some of his toughest words for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Romney couldn’t make it through a Senate confirmation process as a mere Cabinet nominee, the majority leader insisted, owing to the opaqueness of his personal finances.

“His poor father must be so embarrassed about his son,” Reid said, in reference to George Romney’s standard-setting decision to turn over 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in the late 1960s.

Saying he had “no problem with somebody being really, really wealthy,” Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.

“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?

Reid will personally field calls from Bain investors? Have you ever tried calling Reid’s office? Let’s just say that Harry doesn’t personally pick up the phone if the caller ID says “Joe Sixpack.”

You’d think if Romney’s tax returns contained any shenanigans, the IRS would be all over it, but if not he’s only following the tax code as written by the legislative body Harry Reid’s been a member of for nearly 30 years.

Naturally Reid was more than happy to provide all the information so reporters could confirm that the conversation ever took place:

Tellingly, neither Reid nor his office would reveal who the investor was, making it impossible to verify if the accusation is true. And as his quote makes clear, he’s uncertain if the information is accurate. The Romney campaign’s press secretary, Andrea Saul, has previously denied rumors that Romney didn’t pay “any taxes at all.”

The veracity of Reid’s stories should make him a top contender to replace Brian Ross at ABC if he ever leaves.

Not that it wasn’t already obvious, but Fortune’s Dan Primrack calls BS, and here’s why:

Let me make this crystal clear: Investors in private equity funds do not receive, nor are they entitled to request, personal tax returns for fund managers. Not just at Bain Capital, but everywhere. For example, ask the person managing your 401(k) for their personal tax returns. See how far you get.

What makes this particular claim even sillier, of course, is that Romney hasn’t even been managing Bain funds for the past 10 years (no matter when you believe he left the firm). He’s been a silent investor like Harvard and MIT. Think the guy managing private equity for Harvard can get the personal tax returns of the guy managing private equity for MIT? Yes, that’s another rhetorical question.

And just to close the circle, it also isn’t possible that Reid’s source was someone within Bain because partner tax returns are not prepared or reviewed in the firm’s offices. Instead, that’s done at PricewaterhouseCoopers. So no “maybe someone found it on a fax machine” theories. It’s also possible that someone else at Bain didn’t pay taxes for 10 years, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean that Romney did or didn’t (he does have other financial interests).

Meanwhile, two can play the unsubstantiated rumors game.

Update: Whoops… somehow the “allow comments” box was unchecked. Fixed now.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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