State law­mak­ers ap­prove bill that aims to force Trump to re­lease tax returns

The Sacramento Bee - - Front Page - BY BRYAN AN­DER­SON ban­der­[email protected]

Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers approved a bill Thurs­day to force Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to pub­licly re­lease his tax returns ahead of the 2020 elec­tion, set­ting the stage for another le­gal showdown be­tween the state and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. The pro­posal dubbed the “Pres­i­den­tial Tax Trans­parency and Ac­count­abil­ity Act” passed both cham­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture on a party-line vote. Democrats say the mea­sure will serve as a model for pro­vid­ing vot­ers with in­for­ma­tion about can­di­date’s fi­nances, while Repub­li­cans ar­gue it is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The bill by state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healds­burg, now heads to Gov. Gavin New­som, who re­leased six years of his own tax returns dur­ing his 2018 run for gover­nor and is ex­pected to sign it.

It would re­quire Trump to file the last five years of his tax returns with the Sec­re­tary of State to get his name on the 2020 pri­mary bal­lot. The in­for­ma­tion would then be pub­lished on­line, with contact in­for­ma­tion, So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers and med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion redacted from the pub­lic.

Tim Mur­taugh, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Trump’s 2020 cam­paign, said Cal­i­for­nia has no stand­ing to pur­sue the pres­i­dent’s tax records.

“The Con­sti­tu­tion is clear on the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for some­one to serve as pres­i­dent and states can­not add ad­di­tional re­quire­ments on their own,” Mur­taugh said in a state­ment. “The bill

also vi­o­lates the 1st Amend­ment right of as­so­ci­a­tion since Cal­i­for­nia can’t tell po­lit­i­cal par­ties which can­di­dates their mem­bers can or can­not vote for in a pri­mary elec­tion.”

Former Gov. Jerry Brown, who de­clined to re­lease his own tax returns, ve­toed a pro­posal sim­i­lar to McGuire’s in 2017, warn­ing that it “may not be con­sti­tu­tional” and could es­tab­lish a “slip­pery slope” prece­dent.

Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can Party Chair­woman Jessica Pat­ter­son agreed with Brown.

“I urge Gover­nor Gavin New­som to veto this bill, just as Jerry Brown did when he was gover­nor,” she said.

McGuire has pre­vi­ously called Brown’s veto “hog­wash,” in­sist­ing the state has the author­ity to ad­min­is­ter bal­lot pro­ce­dures.

He said the bill goes be­yond Trump, given it also ap­plies to Democrats run­ning for pres­i­dent — many of whom have al­ready re­leased re­cent years of tax returns.

Joe Bi­den, the former vice pres­i­dent now run­ning for pres­i­dent, re­leased the last three years of his tax returns ear­lier this week but would need to pro­vide an ad­di­tional two years to ap­pear on the bal­lot in March 2020.

“This bill is all about equal op­por­tu­nity and trans­parency for all, no mat­ter whether you are a Demo­crat or Repub­li­can,” McGuire said.

Jessica Levin­son, a pro­fes­sor at Loy­ola Law School, said she is torn on the is­sue of the mea­sure’s con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity and that the outcome of a po­ten­tial le­gal fight would largely de­pend on the judge who hears the case.

She said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion could present com­pelling ar­gu­ments in court to strike down the law by claim­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion cre­ated a firm set of el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments re­lated to age and ci­ti­zen­ship. On the other hand, Cal­i­for­nia could suc­cess­fully ar­gue it has ad­min­is­tra­tive ju­ris­dic­tion over its bal­lots.

Levin­son said po­lit­i­cal mo­tives could also be a fac­tor wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion.

Democrats, whose party has dom­i­nated Repub­li­cans in re­cent elec­tions, carved out an amend­ment to re­quire gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates to re­lease the last five years of their tax returns. Even so, they couldn’t get a sin­gle Repub­li­can to sup­port the pro­posal.

“It is clear it’s Demo­cratic law­mak­ers who are vot­ing for this,” Levin­son said. “It’s not a bi­par­ti­san ef­fort. It’s a re­sponse to what Trump has done. That doesn’t mean it’s bad pol­icy, but the ques­tion is if a Demo­cratic can­di­date failed to re­lease his tax returns, would a Repub­li­can push for some­thing sim­i­lar?”

If New­som signs the bill, Cal­i­for­nia would be­come the first state to com­pel Trump to re­lease his taxes in or­der to qual­ify for the state’s pri­mary bal­lot. It might not be the last.

Records from the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures’ Elec­tion Leg­is­la­tion Data­base show 17 other states have con­sid­ered bills this year to re­quire pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to re­lease their tax returns to get on the state’s bal­lot.

Bills from 10 other states are still alive, and five of them — Hawaii, Illi­nois, New Jer­sey, Rhode Is­land and Wash­ing­ton — have al­ready cleared one cham­ber this year.

A plan in Hawaii calls on pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to dis­close their most re­cent tax re­turn, while a pro­posal in North Carolina calls for can­di­dates to re­lease the last 10 years of in­for­ma­tion. All other states with sur­viv­ing bills match Cal­i­for­nia’s fiveyear re­quire­ment, with some states also plac­ing iden­ti­cal re­quire­ments on can­di­dates run­ning for vice pres­i­dent.

Trump has vig­or­ously at­tacked states that have pur­sued his tax records, claim­ing vot­ers don’t care about the doc­u­ments. He has crit­i­cized New York in particular over a pro­posal Gov. An­drew Cuomo signed Mon­day to al­low Congress to access his state taxes.

“I won the 2016 Elec­tion par­tially based on no Tax Returns while I am un­der au­dit (which I still am), and the vot­ers didn’t care,” Trump wrote on Twit­ter on May 11. “Now the Rad­i­cal Left Democrats want to again re­lit­i­gate this mat­ter. Make it a part of the 2020 Elec­tion!”

A Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity Poll con­ducted months be­fore the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion found that a ma­jor­ity of both Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic likely vot­ers wanted to see Trump’s tax returns.

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