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GOP governor calls on Romney to release more tax returns

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, in an interview with ABC News today, called on presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney to release his tax returns in order to show voters that he has "nothing to hide."

Bentley said that Romney's refusal to release more returns has created a "distraction" that Democrats were successfully exploiting.

"I just believe in total transparency," Bentley told ABC News at the National Governors Association conference. "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. I may be the only public official in Alabama that does, but I release mine every year and I just believe that people should release their tax returns. And if you get them out and just get past that, it just makes it so much easier."

Bentley, who took office in 2001, warned that failure to do so would continue to open the door for the Obama campaign and their Democratic allies to "cause distractions away from the real issue in this campaign and that's the economy."

Earlier this year, Romney released his 2010 tax documents and his estimated returns for 2011, but so far he has declined to offer disclosures for additional years and has indicated he is unlikely to do so. Democrats have pounced on Romney for what they see as a lack of transparency.

"They're doing everything they can to hurt Governor Romney and tax returns will be one of those things," Bentley said. "So the best thing to do is just get everything out in the open and just say, 'hey I have nothing to hide and I'm going to release my tax returns.'"

The Republican governor, who voted for Rick Santorum over Romney in his state's presidential primary, added: "I think that it's always easier just to say, hey I'm releasing everything, and just get it out there and then get past it."

That strategy, Bentley said, would allow the former Massachusetts governor to " start talking about the issues that I think that the people of America really are concerned about and that's our economy and jobs and 8.4 percent unemployment rate and a $16 trillion debt."

Responding to the Alabama governor's comments, Obama campaign spokeswoman Elisabeth Smith said: "We agree with Governor Bentley - Mitt Romney should exhibit total transparency and release his tax returns."

Smith added, "That's the only way the American people will learn about his motivations on critical policy matters and whether he invested in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts to avoid paying U.S. taxes or hedge against the dollar."

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