The race for governor in Colorado took a turn this weekend, as the candidates released tax returns to the public. Democrat John Hickenlooper released more than two decades of returns. Republican Scott McInnis released only a couple of years’ worth, and he released those returns reluctantly. Indeed, on April 15 he told Fox News Radio in Loveland that he wasn’t going to comply with a Denver Post request to release his returns. “I’m not going to invite myself to my own beating,” he told hosts Keith Weinman and Gail Fallen. Although the Fox News hosts didn’t ask him to elaborate, media outlets and activist groups have taken up the cause.
Progressive online organization ProgressNow Colorado, for example, predictably jumped on McInnis’s reluctance.
“McInnis is thumbing his nose at a routine request for basic financial disclosures. On behalf of our network members and all Colorado voters we demand that McInnis come clean,” said Executive Director Bobby Clark.
The group is asking McInnis to not only disclose his tax returns but also to unseal his divorce papers and make available lists of clients he lobbied for and boards he was paid to sit on over the years, including while he was a member of Congress.
McInnis appeared on the Fox radio show apparently after having just read a Denver Post editorial published the same morning calling on him and fellow Republican Dan Maes to “follow Hickenlooper’s lead and agree to make their returns public.”
The Post argued that releasing income tax returns “shows that a leader who seeks the public trust is committed to transparency at all levels,” adding that “[t]ax returns show sources of income, chronicle any charitable giving, and reveal potential conflicts of interest, use of tax shelters and other valuable information.”
In a news story on the same day, the Post reported: “Since at least 1998, all but one Colorado major-party gubernatorial candidate – Republican Marc Holtzman – have released their tax forms to the media. And in the past 14 years, all major-party U.S. Senate candidates in Colorado have released their tax returns.”
McInnis, however, viewed the Post’s request as an intrusion and a set up.
“I’m not going to invite myself to my own beating. I’m going to give what I think the people want, not what the Denver Post wants,” McInnis told the radio audience. He said that there was no need for him to release his returns.
“I have made more disclosures on my financial background than any other candidate in this race and probably more than any candidate for a long time simply because of length of service.”
That of course was before Hickenlooper invited a small group of reporters to go through his returns with him, literally carting up boxes full of papers from his basement for outlets including the Colorado Independent to review.
Elsewhere in the Fox interview McInnis again said that the Post’s request was aggressive by design. “Keep in mind that it’s [the Denver Post’s] job to make my job as uncomfortable as possible.” (See the Keith and Gail audio archive on the KCOL website, April 15, hour 4, beginning at 15 minutes 30 seconds.)
McInnis told the Fox hosts that he’d release records of his income, but as the Post pointed out, income tax returns reveal much more than just income. They would also reveal, for example, the compensation McInnis received for serving on the board of equity firm KSL Capitol Partners.
McInnis said releasing his returns would compromise the privacy of his family. He didn’t say whether he would simply release the portions of his returns that apply to his individual income.
McInnis said that it was the press and Democrats who wanted to see his tax returns, not the people.
“People don’t really care about what my brother and sister made or what that says on my income tax returns,” he said, adding later: “It’s rarely brought up by the average citizen on the street. ‘Gee, Scott, I want to know some of that information.'”
Of course, voters look to the news media to ask politicians to disclose information for review. Citizens “on the street” don’t usually have time to review twenty years of tax returns, much less lobbying records and possible conflicts of interest.
A transcript of the McInnis interview referenced above is available at bigmedia.org, the Rocky Mountain Media Watch website.
Edit note: An earlier version of this post appeared at blogsite Colorado Pols.