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Among the early front-runners for the dumbest California law of 2019 is the first-in-the-nation legislation requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns to be eligible for the primary ballot.

If it isn't unconstitutional, it should be.

Let's be clear: Presidential contenders should follow precedent and voluntarily release their tax returns. It's important for all candidates, but especially for Trump, given the controversies surrounding his financial affairs.

Trump's lawyers called the California law "a naked political attack against the sitting president of the United States." They're right.

At least former Gov. Jerry Brown had the good sense to veto a similar bill in 2017, saying it would set a bad precedent. "Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?" Brown wrote in his veto message. "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?"

For the record, Brown refused to release his returns when running for governor in 2010 and 2014.

If California's law keeps Trump off the ballot in 2020, Republicans likely will retaliate in kind with new laws in red states designed to keep the Democratic candidates they most fear off the primary ballot. Following President Obama's election in 2008, lawmakers in several states, who were trying to perpetuate myths about his origin, considered laws requiring proof that a candidate was a natural-born citizen.

Some argue that the Constitution gives states wide latitude to shape their primary elections. Opponents say the courts should kill the law because it disenfranchises voters whose preferred candidates meet federal standards.

As eager as many Americans are to see Trump's tax returns to learn the truth about his financial dealings, this is the wrong way to go about it. It won't keep him from being the GOP nominee in November.

Editorial on 08/10/2019

Print Headline: Tax (law) fraud


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Archived Comments

  • WGT
    August 10, 2019 at 9 a.m.

    Nope. When one takes on the public at large to be a representative, come clean. Private citizens may remain private. Public servants must present their credentials to justify their credibility.

    August 10, 2019 at 4:51 p.m.

    Trump repeatedly promised to release his returns. That shouldn't be forced by an ill-conceived law, but prompted by basic decency and integrity...neither of which Trump possesses.

    Not that his supporters care; they applaud his lack of character.