In an introduction to his daily newsletter, the New York Times’ David Leonhardt recently commented on the most recent effort to obtain Donald Trump’s tax returns, and the continued refusal of Trump and his Treasury Department to provide them.
The most innocent possibility is that he isn’t nearly as wealthy as he has long boasted, and he’s embarrassed by the truth. A less innocent possibility is that he has financial ties that could create political problems for him if those ties became public — for example, ties to Russia or other countries to which his foreign policy has been suspiciously friendly.
The release of the returns would let “Americans decide whether the president is making decisions that benefit his businesses at the expense of American taxpayers,” Aaron Scherb of Common Cause, the government watchdog group, has written in USA Today. “If Trump has significant debt to banks and/or individuals in certain countries, some of which might be adversaries of the United States, we must know because his foreign policy decisions might be compromised.”
Whatever the reason, it is obvious that Trump is hiding something. And it isn’t only his tax situation. We’re also supposed to believe his repeated bragging that he is smart (despite copious evidence to the contrary), and ignore the fact that he has threatened to sue his high school and college if they release his grades.
His stubborn refusal to release his taxes, however, suggests a relatively simple strategy to prevent his earning a second term in office. Bear with me here.
There is a lot wrong with our current electoral system, and one of the “wrongest” is that each state has the authority to administer election contests within that state. That allows for a lot of mischief (if you don’t believe me, look at Georgia’s last, arguably stolen, gubernatorial contest), but mischief is as mischief does…
States can make rules governing candidates access to the state’s ballot. Last year, legislation was introduced in some twenty-six states to make disclosure of five years of tax returns a condition of accessing that state’s ballot, but none has yet passed.
There is hope from Washington State, however, as The Stranger pointed out a couple of weeks ago.
On Tuesday evening a bill requiring all presidential and vice presidential candidates to disclose the last 5 years of their tax returns in order to appear on Washington state ballots passed the Senate floor. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), passed 28 to 21 along party lines, because of course it did.
If Gov. Inslee ends up signing this bill, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Joe Bernie Sanders Warren Harris would have to show us the money if they want to get a vote from a single Washingtonian.
Twenty-six other states have introduced similar legislation, but so far none have taken. Two years ago, California’s Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill that passed through both chambers there.
Over the phone, Sen. Kuderer said she was “optimistic” Inslee would see “the wisdom in this bill” and sign it if it gets to him, making Washington state the first to force candidates to disclose returns to get on the ballot.
“Voters have a right to know what a candidate’s conflict of interests are, they have a right to know their businesses’ ties, their obligations, who they’re beholden to,” Kuderer said. “We’ve come to expect presidents and vice presidents to release their tax returns. It’s become a vital piece of information when making a decision for the office,” she added.
If just a couple of states were to require disclosure as a condition of appearing on the ballot of that state, we could assure The Donald’s defeat in 2020. Either he would finally make his returns public–allowing us to see whatever highly damaging information he has been hiding–or he would lose enough votes, both popular and electoral, to deny him a second term.
Because allowing him to remain in office beyond the term we are already suffering through would be very taxing…