After creating a political firestorm and being accused of lying, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid on Monday refused to back down from his challenge to Mitt Romney over the GOP presidential contender's tax returns.
Reid raised the stakes last week when he said a source who invested in Bain Capital told him Romney hadn't paid taxes for 10 years. He later said others had told him the same thing.
Reid said he didn't know whether this was true, but that Romney ought to release his returns to demonstrate he had paid every year.
Romney was co-founder of Bain and its CEO in the 1980s and 1990s.
Asked Monday whether Reid had been in touch with his source and whether the man was willing to go public with evidence, Reid turned the question back on Romney.
"This whole issue is not about me," Reid said at a news conference after he helped dedicate a new VA hospital in Southern Nevada.
Reid noted Romney's father, George, had released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in 1968. And he added Mitt Romney had released only one full-year return, which Reid said showed he had overseas bank accounts in the Bahamas and Switzerland, raising questions about what Romney might be trying to hide.
"This whole controversy would end very quickly if he would release his income tax returns like everybody else has done that's running for president," Reid said.
Asked a second time whether Reid's source would come forward, the senator snapped, "I've answered your question."
Last Friday, Romney said during a campaign visit to North Las Vegas that Reid should "put up or shut up," and provide evidence he hadn't paid his taxes.
Romney denied Reid accusations and said he has paid taxes every year "and a lot."
Mason Harrison, Romney's campaign spokesman in Nevada, said Reid and President Barack Obama are intent on talking about anything but what he characterized as the Democrats' failed economic policies.
"This is just another attempt by Barack Obama's campaign surrogates to distract voters from his failed economic policies, which have yielded 11.6 percent unemployment in Nevada and devastated small businesses and middle-class communities," Harrison said. "Given that he has no rationale for re-election and no plan to help middle-class Americans, it's no surprise President Obama and his allies have resorted to running a campaign of distraction and dishonesty."
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Reid "speaks for himself" on Romney's taxes. Carney said he did not know whether White House officials had discussed the issue with the Senate majority leader but added the White House had no plans to tell Reid to stop.
"I think the idea that people tell Harry Reid what to do is inconsistent with what everyone here understands to be (the case)," Carney said in response to questions about Reid at his daily briefing.
Carney took the questions as an opportunity to prod Romney anew over releasing more of his tax returns.
Obama "thinks the tradition that has been in place since 1968 of candidates for president releasing multiple years of their tax returns is an important one," Carney said. "It's not always every candidate's favorite part of the process, but it's a tradition that's important. It's valuable to the American people as they decide who should be president."
Romney has released his 2010 tax returns and estimate for 2011. The 2010 return showed Romney paid a 13.9 percent tax rate on $21.6 million in income.
Reid and Obama's re-election campaign have been pounding Romney for months about revealing more about his sources of wealth since he is worth more than $200 million.
Reid has made headlines for a week by repeating his charges, which have delighted Democrats and enraged Republicans.
The Sunday talk shows focused on the Reid-Romney fight.
Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, attacked Reid personally.
"I'm not going to respond to a dirty liar who hasn't filed a single page of tax returns himself," Priebus said on ABC's "This Week" about Reid. "He complains about people with money but lives in the Ritz-Carlton here down the street."
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was just as harsh on Reid.
"I think he's making things up," Graham said during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union." "I just cannot believe that the majority leader of the United States Senate would take the floor twice, make accusations that are absolutely unfounded, in my view, and quite frankly making things up to divert the campaign away from the real issues."
Contact reporter Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.