North Coast State Sen. Mike McGuire has followed through on his promise
to re-introduce legislation that would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to make it onto the primary ballot in California.
McGuire vowed to reintroduce the legislation — a prior version of which was vetoed
by Gov. Jerry Brown last year — in July, after watching President Donald Trump’s widely criticized joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. In a press release this morning, McGuire referenced Trump’s refusal to implicate Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, in the brutal murder of Washington Post
journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
“Voters not only deserve full disclosure of their leader’s tax returns, they should be entitled to them,” said McGuire. “If President Trump had released his tax returns we would know why he’s ignoring intelligence agencies and snuggling up to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who has been linked to the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Transparency is a nonpartisan issue and it’s time to put the speculation to bed and bring to light any conflicts of interest that could drive an American president into the arms of a foreign power. It’s time to make President Trump’s tax returns public.”
The Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, which was co-written by Sen. Scott Wiener, would require candidates to release at least five years of tax returns in order to appear on the primary ballot in the Golden State, with returns then made publicly available on the Secretary of State’s website. The legislation was introduced as an urgency ordinance, meaning it would take effect immediately upon being signed with the governor and could be in place prior to the filing period for 2020 presidential candidates.
When vetoing the bill’s prior iteration, Brown questioned its legality and expressed concerns “about the political perils of individual states seeking to regulate presidential elections in this manner.”
“Today we require tax returns but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?" Brown wrote in his veto message.
But even if passed and signed into law, it’s unclear if the legislation would actually lead to the release of Trump’s tax returns. Sitting presidents often do not face primary challenges, meaning if he really wanted to avoid releasing his returns, Trump could skip the California primary entirely and still land on the November ballot.
California Election Code Section 6901 provides that it's ultimately qualified political parties that select their presidential nominees to appear on the ballot, meaning that regardless of who wins — or even participates in the primary — it’s the party that will choose its nominee.
McGuire and Wiener’s bill received tons of support
in the last Legislature, easily passing both houses on its way to the governor’s desk, so it seems likely to pass. The first question then will be whether incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom sees the issue differently than his predecessor.
Senators McGuire and Wiener reintroduce Presidential Tax Transparency bill
Sacramento, CA – With President Trump often showing stronger allegiance to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Russia's Vladimir Putin compared to America’s own best interests, California State Senators have reintroduced legislation that would require all presidential candidates to release their tax returns prior to being placed on the California ballot. Tax returns, which are signed under penalty of perjury, would reveal the kinds of financial entanglements that lead to such serious conflicts of interest.
“Voters not only deserve full disclosure of their leader’s tax returns, they should be entitled to them,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire. “If President Trump had released his tax returns we would know why he’s ignoring his own intelligence agencies and snuggling up to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who has been linked to the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”
“Transparency is a nonpartisan issue and it's time to put the speculation to bed and bring to light any conflicts of interest that could drive an American president into the arms of a foreign power,” McGuire continued. “It’s time to make President Trump’s tax returns public.”
The Presidential Tax Transparency & Accountability Act will require basic tax information to be shared with the California public and require that all presidential candidates release the last five years of their tax returns in order to appear on the California ballot. The returns would also be made available to the public on the Secretary of State’s website.
The Presidential Tax Transparency bill was last passed by the legislature with Republican and Democratic support in 2017. Senators McGuire and Wiener reintroduced the bill as SB 27 this week.
“The American people deserve to know that a President, regardless of who he or she may be, is governing for the good of the people instead of for their own self-interest,” said Senator Wiener. “This President continues to make decisions that undermine our national security interests. We deserve to know what is compelling him to take these bizarre actions. Requiring presidential candidates to disclose basic financial information is a common sense step that builds trust between the American people and our elected leader. I’m proud to partner with Senator McGuire on this effort to strengthen our democracy and give voters the full transparency they deserve.”
Prior to Donald Trump’s refusal to release any tax returns, every president since Jimmy Carter (over 40 years) has released at least one year of tax returns. During the 2016 Presidential election, Hillary Clinton (Democratic) and Jill Stein (Green) both released their tax returns.
Contrary to President Trump's statements in public that Americans don’t care about his tax returns, a poll released this week showed 63 percent of Americans believe Trump’s tax returns should be released.
Included in this year’s Presidential Tax Transparency bill is an urgency clause so the legislation would take effect immediately, prior to the filing deadline for 2020 Presidential candidates.