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Jon Huntsman Sr. says book's Romney tax claim is 'supermarket tabloid trash'

Published: Friday, Nov. 1 2013 11:20 a.m. MDT

Jon M. Huntsman Sr. talks to the press after the dedication of the Huntsman Cancer Institute's new state-of-the-art $100 million expansion in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, Oct. 28, 2011.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Jon M. Huntsman Sr., who is in town for a gala Friday night, said a new book's claim that he told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2012 that Mitt Romney had not paid a decade's worth of taxes was untrue.

He went on to call the book's claim, "supermarket tabloid trash," and said that he did not know the authors of the book and had not spoken to them.

The assertion that Huntsman had given Reid information about Romney's taxes during the 2012 election was made in Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's new book "Double Down: Game Change 2012," a sequel to their look at the 2008 election, the The New York Times reported Thursday. The book will be released on Nov. 5.

"I have no way of knowing if Mitt Romney did or did not pay his taxes," Huntsman said Friday.

"It's the same rumor that surfaced in 2011 and 2012, and Jon Huntsman Sr. categorically denied it in 2012," Kirk Jowers of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics said on KSL Newsradio Friday morning.

During an interview with The Huffington Post in July 2012, Reid, D-Nev., said that a month or so before, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called him and told him that Romney hadn't paid any taxes for 10 years.

"He didn't pay taxes for 10 years!" Reid said in the interview. "Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain. But obviously he can't release those tax returns. How would it look?"

In a follow-up statement, Reid called his source "extremely credible" and that it was clear that "Romney is hiding something."

"I understand Romney is concerned that many people, Democrats and Republicans, have been calling on him to release his tax returns. He has so far refused," Reid said. "There is only one thing he can do to clear this up, and that's release his tax returns."

On Sept. 21, 2012, Romney's campaign released his complete 2011 tax return, along with a letter from PricewaterhouseCoopers that gave a summary of tax rates from Romney tax returns from 1990-2009.

According to the Pricewaterhouse Coopers letter:

The Romneys owed and paid both state and federal income taxes during that 1990-2009 window.

Their average annual effective federal tax rate was 20.20 percent.

Their lowest annual effective federal personal tax rate was 13.66 percent during that 20-year period.

Over that 20-year period, federal and state taxes combined with charitable donations deducted represented 38.49 percent of the Romney family's adjusted gross income.

Reid responded to Romney's release at the time, saying that the information "reveals that Mitt Romney manipulated one of the only two years of tax returns he's seen fit to show the American people."

"Governor Romney is showing us what he does when the public is looking," Reid said. "The true test of his character would be to show what he did when everyone was not looking at his taxes."

After the Internal Revenue Service apologized in May 2013 for targeting conservative groups — targeting that allegedly included leaking tax information — Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., suggested that Reid's information might have come from IRS officials.

According to The New York Times review of "Double Down: Game Change 2012," the book also includes information about Jon M. Huntsman Jr.

The former ambassador to China and former governor of Utah is "portrayed in perhaps the most negative light in the book," the NYT review said, citing information from the book that said Huntsman was repeatedly assuring White House officials that he wouldn't be running for president in 2012 while he and his wife were working with potential campaign strategists and eventual consultants.

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