Rubio, Cruz release tax returns, pressuring Trump

Two Republican presidential candidates – Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas – released summary pages of their tax returns from the last several years Saturday evening, an effort to raise pressure on billionaire Donald Trump to do the same just days before Super Tuesday in the Republican presidential nominating battle.

Rubio and his wife, Jeanette, made $2.29 million from 2010 to 2014 and paid $526,092 in taxes, according to the information released late Saturday afternoon. Cruz’s campaign reported several hours later that the senator from Texas and his wife, Heidi, earned $5.05 million over the last four years and paid $1.45 million in taxes.

Both candidates released only the first two pages of returns for the years 2010 to 2014, which provide summary information but drew criticism immediately from Democratic partisans who cited the decision of Hillary Clinton and other presidential candidates to release multiple years of full tax returns. Without the full returns, key details about Cruz’s and Rubio’s family financial dealings – such as precise sources of income, deductions and amounts donated to charity – were not revealed.

Late Saturday, Cruz told reporters that he released a summary because Rubio had only released two pages. He said he’s made charitable contributions, though the campaign isn’t going to release any more tax information at the moment.

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“If Marco wants to release the complete things for the recent years I’m happy to do so as well and I would certainly encourage Donald Trump to do it, but we just did it to match what the other candidates are doing,” Cruz said.

The Rubios reported $335,561 in income and $78,917 in taxes in 2014, the most recent year released. For the same period, the Cruzes reported $1.2 million in income and paying $389,124 in taxes.

Both men receive the standard salary of about $174,000 as a U.S. senator, and both have had considerable outside income.

Rubio’s wife has been a paid adviser to the charitable foundation of Norman Braman, a Florida auto dealer and major Rubio donor. Cruz’s wife works for the Goldman Sachs investment firm.

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Since Rubio joined the Senate in 2010, his family income has ranged from a low of $183,872 in 2010 to a high of $929,439 in 2012, according to the couple. A major part of Rubio’s increase in revenue comes from book deals.

The Cruzes’ family income ranged from a low of $970,000 in 2013 to a high of $1.7 million in 2011. During that period he paid an effective tax rate of between 28.4 percent and 32.2 percent, according to an accompanying summary issued by the campaign Saturday night.

The two senators, vying to be the GOP alternative to front-runner Trump, had promised to release their recent tax returns in comments during Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate in Houston.

Each had released earlier returns during their respective Senate races but had put off making public returns from recent years.

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The release of the partial returns Saturday is a move to force Trump to do the same with his tax returns, as Rubio has rolled out a feisty new strategy of insulting and attacking the Republican front-runner. At Thursday’s debate, Trump responded by jabbing Rubio over his management of his personal finances, including personal charges he put on a Republican Party credit card in Florida.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who had taken heat for delaying the release of his own returns during the nominating process four years ago, elevated the issue this week with a string of tweets baiting Trump on taxes, suggesting Trump may be hiding a “bombshell” in his returns.

At the debate, Trump responded that he could not release his taxes because he is being audited by the IRS, claiming that he’s been audited routinely by the government every year for the past 12 years.

“I want to release my tax returns but I can’t release it while I’m under an audit,” Trump said at the debate.

In a CNN interview after the debate, Trump said that he has been targeted by the IRS because he’s a “strong Christian.”

That idea was rejected by John Koskinen, the commissioner of the IRS, in an interview taped by C-SPAN on Friday. Koskinen also said it would be “rare” for the IRS to conduct annual audits, absent finding problems with past returns.

Trump’s rivals have sensed an opening with his refusal and his unique excuse for the lack of transparency. At the debate, Cruz shot back that an IRS audit only underscores the need for Trump to release the records.

“If he has said something that was false and that an audit is going to find was fraudulent, the voters need to know,” Cruz said.

As he released his own returns Saturday night, Cruz added more fuel to his previous comments, saying in a press release that Trump’s reluctance to release taxes may result from a desire to hide some activities.

For example, he suggested Trump might not want to reveal a lower income than he has led voters to believe — or perhaps donations to groups out of favor with the Republican right, such as Planned Parenthood.

In a brief interview Saturday, he said “given the serious questions that have been raised about Donald Trump’s business dealings, the primary voters are owed the opportunity to vet the candidates.”

Rubio had promised at the debate that there would be “nothing really that interesting” in his returns.

Still, he has faced questions about his personal finances in the past.

He entered the Florida legislature in 2000 making $72,000 a year as a land use attorney, an income that had ballooned to more than $400,000 a year by the time he stepped down as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 2008.

While a state official, he also came under fire for his use of a Republican Party credit card, and he repaid the state $2,400 after acknowledging he had several times received state reimbursement for travel expenses that he had also billed to the party. More recently, a personal financial disclosure form filed at the start of his candidacy showed that he had cashed out some of his retirement savings. He said he needed “access to cash” as he began his presidential run, including money to buy a refrigerator.

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Christina Freundlich rapped Rubio on Saturday evening for releasing only the first two pages of his returns.

“Marco Rubio’s release today shows he doesn’t believe in transparency and has something to hide,” she said in a statement.

Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, said the release was consistent with what Rubio made public when he was running for the Senate and the release made by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, but he did not rule out releasing more information in coming days.

Presidential candidates are required by law to file a personal financial disclosure form with the Federal Election Commission. Those forms, however, require only that the value of assets and income be disclosed in broad ranges. Tax returns provide precise information about a candidate’s income as well as other financial details.

Clinton has released tax returns dating to 1977, including last year, making public her records from 2007 through 2014.