(WASHINGTON) — Count Ron Paul as the latest Republican who thinks it would behoove Mitt Romney to release his tax returns.
“Politically, I think that would help him,” Paul told Politico’s MJ Lee in an interview. “In the scheme of things politically, you know, it looks like releasing tax returns is what the people want.”
Paul agreed with pundits who have called Romney’s tax returns a distraction from more substantial issues in the 2012 campaign.
“It’s a shame,” Paul told Politico. “It’s all a charade, I think it’s all contrived to not have a debate.”
Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton contested Politico’s casting of the story. “Dr. Paul is not calling on Gov. Romney to release his tax returns. This story is the result of some very poor, gotcha journalism by a Politico reporter and does reflect Dr. Paul’s sentiments,” Benton told ABC News. Benton said Paul’s campaign has a “very cordial and respectful” relationship with Romney’s.
During the Republican primary campaign, The New York Times noted that the two candidates had struck up a kind of friendship.
While prominent conservatives from George Will to Bill Kristol to former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele appeared on Sunday talk shows and called on Romney to release more years of his tax returns, two Republican elected officials have now shared their view, while phrasing things less aggressively.
Paul joins Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on the nascent, tiny list of GOP politicians who have said publicly that Romney should oblige his critics’ requests.
“I just believe in total transparency,” Bentley told ABC News at the National Governors Association conference in Williamsburg, Va., on Saturday. “In fact, I was asked today that question — do you think that Governor Romney should release his tax returns? And I said I do. I said, I release my tax returns.”
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Stephen Collinson and MJ Lee, CNN
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Jim Acosta and Greg Clary, CNN