Judging from President Obama's new ad, the non-imaginary source who told Harry Reid that Mitt Romney didn't pay taxes for ten years might be chatting with his campaign as well. Of course, just as the controversial Priorities USA Action ad didn't explicitly say that Mitt Romney killed a former steelworker's wife, the commercial merely suggests that Romney might be refusing to release his tax returns because at some point he paid nothing to the IRS. "Did Romney pay 10 percent in taxes? Five percent? Zero? We don't know," says the ad's narrator.
As Reid's battle with Republicans intensified this past week, the White House initially distanced itself from his outlandish claim, with Press Secretary Jay Carney saying the Senate Majority Leader "speaks for himself." In previous ads, the Obama campaign has pointed out that in 2010 Romney paid a lower tax rate than many middle-class Americans, and the new ad replays footage of a recent ABC News interview in which Romney said he's unsure of his annual tax rate. However, this is the first time that the campaign has suggested that there might have been a year when Romney paid nothing at all.
The ad is bolstered by another new attack, which is backed up by far more than a mysterious phone call. In February, Bloomberg News reported that while Romney served on Marriott's board, the company ran into trouble with the IRS twice over its tax avoidance maneuvers, including a tax shelter nicknamed "Son of BOSS." The commercial calls it "one of the largest tax avoidance schemes in history."
A Romney spokeswoman called the new ad "another dishonorable and dishonest attack," but according to The Wall Street Journal it failed to respond to the Marriott allegations or elaborate on which parts are untrue. The Romney campaign has said that there was never a year when he paid no taxes, but of course it still won't prove that's true by releasing the returns.