Eliot Spitzer Won't Release Full Tax Returns Despite Criticism Of Mitt Romney For Same Refusal

NEW YORK -- The race for New York City comptroller turned into a small-scale reenactment of the 2012 presidential campaign as Eliot Spitzer's opponent hammered him for his refusal to release his full tax returns.

On Tuesday, Spitzer released partial returns that showed he paid an effective tax rate of 49 percent in 2011 and of 39.5 percent in 2012 on a combined income of $8 million. The campaign, however, declined to release his complete tax return forms, citing the need to protect some information.

"Eliot has released his aggregate gross income and the amounts he paid in federal, state and city taxes," a statement from the campaign read. "He will not be releasing the actual tax returns, as they contain income information about partnerships and other entities that is private. The information he released provided the relevant data: AGI and taxes paid in the past two years."

The decision to do a partial disclosure has opened up the former New York governor to charges of hypocrisy. Spitzer lambasted Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last September for refusing to release his complete income tax returns at the same time he was criticizing those who paid no federal taxes.

"Romney has now made paying taxes the litmus test for good moral standing in our community. He has done this by so avowedly dismissing the 47 percent as dependents and slackers. So while I had grown tired and lost interest in Mitt's tax returns, I have a sudden, new-found interest in examining them. If payment is the ticket to moral uprightness, I want to see if Mitt has punched his own ticket," Spitzer said, while host of the show "Viewpoint" on the TV channel Current.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who released five years of federal tax returns on Tuesday, issued a statement calling out Spitzer for not being more forthcoming.

"The old Eliot Spitzer supported stringent ethics disclosure," said Audrey Gelman, Stringer's campaign spokeswoman. "Just as we've seen on his decision to abandon campaign spending limits he once supported, it's increasingly clear that Eliot Spitzer believes there are two standards in public life -- one for him, and one for everyone else."

Spitzer's personal wealth has become a lightning rod in the Democratic primary since he chose to forgo the city's publicly funded campaign program in favor of independently funding his campaign. The decision has allowed Spitzer, the son of a wealthy New York real estate baron, to spend as much of his own money as he wants, whereas Stringer has agreed to spending limits in exchange for matching funds.

On Tuesday, voters got a limited view of where that wealth originates. According to data from the Spitzer campaign, in 2011 his adjusted gross income was nearly $3.8 million, on which he paid roughly $1.5 million in federal, state and city taxes. Last year, Spitzer brought home $4.268 million, while paying just under $2.1 million in taxes.

Stringer and his wife, meanwhile, reported a combined adjusted income of $217,796 in 2012. The couple made $222,865 in 2011.

A more complete portrait of Spitzer's wealth was reported by the Associated Press in 2008, as he returned to the private sector from the governor's mansion. IRS filings examined by the AP said Spitzer earned $14.9 million from 1998 to 2007 while he was attorney general and governor.

Asked why he was no longer willing to share his tax returns as he seeks to return to public office, his spokeswoman Lisa Linden told HuffPost that "perhaps some of those [private] issues did not exist then."

Good government groups, unsurprisingly, were not satisfied with the less than full disclosure and joined Stringer in accusing Spitzer of abandoning his earlier positions on government ethics.

"One thing we're seeing, unfortunately, is that Mr. Spitzer doesn't value consistency," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for clean government. "Because his positions are a stark contrast to the principles and positions he's espoused.

"Transparency is a basic requirement, particularly in executive offices that have budgetary responsibilities with millions and billions of dollars to oversee," she told HuffPost.