Facing continued pressure to release additional financial information, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has offered a new explanation for releasing only two years worth of tax returns, indicating that he doesn't want to publicize how much money he has given to the Mormon Church.
"Our church doesn't publish how much people have given," Romney said in an interview with Parade magazine in an issue due out on Sunday. "This is done entirely privately."
"One of the downsides of releasing one's financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known," he added. "It's a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church."
The former Massachusetts Governor previously suggested that he didn't want to release additional returns because the Obama campaign would distort and twist the information for their own benefit.
Romney has released his tax return for 2010 and an estimate of his taxes for 2011 but has refused to release any further documentation, noting that he has met the legal requirements.
The returns showed that Romney and his wife Ann donated over $4 million to the Mormon Church over those years on slightly more than $40 million in income.
The Mormon church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, calls for members to donate, or tithe, at least 10 percent of their yearly income to the church.
In the Parade interview, Ann Romney said she "loves" tithing and cries when she gives the check. The comment prompted Mitt Romney to quip, "So do I, but for a different reason."
"It teaches us not to be too, too tied to the things of the world," Ann Romney said. "And it is a very good reminder of how blessed we really are, and most of those blessings do not come from a financial source, but from the power above."
Mitt Romney went on to suggest that conservatives are more generous philanthropically, noting that they are in favor of personal action to help people in need over government action.
When asked if tithing is a form of socialism, Romney said, "From the very beginning, the willingness of neighbors to help raise the barn of a next-door neighbor was characteristic of America. But at the same time we take personal responsibility for our lives."
"Does government play a role? Absolutely," he added. "You know, I chuckle when I hear people say, 'Oh, they don't want any government.' Of course we want government! But it is government to encourage the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of its citizens, as opposed to direct the course of their living."
Last week, Romney claimed he has never paid less than 13 percent in taxes in the last decade, which is about equal to the 2008 tax rate for the middle 20 percent of middle class Americans.
Romney paid a lower rate because most of his income is from investments, which are taxed at a lower rate than employment income.
by RTT Staff Writer
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