From The New York Times -- April 16, 2012:
Aides Play Down Romney’s Talk on Taxes for Wealthy
Mitt Romney spoke at a Tea Party meeting on Monday at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
Senior advisers to Mitt Romney said Monday that Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, was merely tossing around ideas, not making policy announcements, when his chat with donors about some significant changes to the tax code was overheard by reporters at a fund-raiser this weekend.
Mitt Romney attended a Boston Red Sox game with Robert K. Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, on Monday.
Campaign surrogates and officials played down Mr. Romney’s candid talk about tax changes for the wealthy, including ending mortgage interest deductions for second homes, eliminating deductions for state and local taxes, as well as closing or merging federal agencies that deal with education and housing.
Those remarks to a backyard gathering of high-dollar donors in Palm Beach, Fla., on Sunday night were overheard by reporters for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, prompting a day of explanation by Mr. Romney’s campaign and a new opening for attack by President Obama’s campaign and the Democrats.
Advisers to Mr. Obama used Mr. Romney’s comments as evidence that he and his campaign regularly hide the truth from the public. Democrats have made clear they intend to portray Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, as willing to reveal his intentions only to well-connected donors, not to the public.
“Apparently, Governor Romney believes only high-dollar donors have a right to know what programs he will cut,” wrote Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Mr. Obama’s campaign, in an e-mail to reporters. “Education. Housing. To pay for $5 trillion tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”
In trying to convince voters that Mr. Romney is hiding things from voters, Democrats point to the fact that he has not identified his “bundlers,” the handful of major donors who gather up contributions from their wealthy friends. And they have criticized Mr. Romney for releasing only two years of tax returns.
“Mitt Romney has made a disturbing habit of hiding the truth,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, on a conference call with reporters organized by the Democratic National Committee. “It’s safe to predict that this was a hot-mike moment that will linger.”
At a Tea Party meeting in Philadelphia on Monday night, Mr. Romney sought to shift the focus from his remarks about taxes to President Obama’s push for the “Buffett Rule,” a proposal requiring that the very wealthy pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent.
Mr. Romney declared that Mr. Obama, through tax policies, federal spending and expansion of regulations, has shown hostility toward entrepreneurial spirit.
“The reason this president has such a hard time understanding what it takes to get the economy going again is he doesn’t understand the power and impact of economic freedom,” Mr. Romney said.
Romney campaign officials said he was not unveiling new policies at the Sunday fund-raiser. They accused Democrats of using the episode to try to distract attention from the economic situation under Mr. Obama.
At the fund-raiser, Mr. Romney and his wife, Ann, offered candid and casual observations that did not appear intended for wider public consumption.
Mr. Romney, for instance, remarked that Fox News was watched by “true believers,” and that the Republican Party needed to broaden its appeal to women and independents, according to NBC. And Mrs. Romney said that she “loved” the fallout generated when a Democratic political operative said that Mrs. Romney had “never worked a day in her life.”
“It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment,” NBC quoted her as saying.
Mr. Romney told the donors that the housing agency “might not be around later” and said the Education Department would be “a heck of a lot smaller,” if not eliminated altogether.