Two days after an estimated 7,000 people took to Denver’s Civic Center Park to demand that President Donald Trump release his tax returns, a House committee okayed a bill to require presidential candidates to make their returns public.
The measure, which is sponsored by Democratic Reps. Edie Hooten of Boulder and Chris Hansen of Denver, would require both presidential and vice-presidential candidates to submit the most recent five years of tax returns. Those who don’t submit those documents won’t appear on Colorado’s presidential election ballot, under the bill.
At least eight other states are working on similar legislation to require those tax returns, Hooten said; six are states carried by Trump in the 2016 election. In other states, although not Colorado, the legislation is referred to as the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act, or TRUMP Act.
Trump is the first major party candidate in 40 years (since President Gerald Ford ran for election in 1976) to not provide his returns, according to Politifact. Trump has claimed he can’t release the returns because they are under audit. The IRS has responded by saying that Trump is still free to release his returns. In January, shortly before his inauguration, Trump told the press that he wouldn’t release the returns because only the media cares about his returns and that the American people do not.
More than 150 cities held Tax Day protests on the issue this weekend.
During Monday’s testimony on the bill, Rep. Susan Beckman, a Littleton Republican, raised concerns about the state picking and choosing whatever criteria it wanted for its presidential election ballot. But Hooten said that states had the latitude so long as that criteria didn’t violate either the Colorado or U.S. Constitutions.
The state of Colorado, which requires its elected officials to file personal financial disclosures, holds its elected officials to a higher level of transparency than is required of presidential candidates, Hooten added.
States aren’t alone in demanding presidential tax returns. At least two bills in Congress, one in the House and the other in the Senate, would require presidential candidates as well as the sitting President to release tax returns.
The measure drew concerns from Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert, who said the U.S. Constitution sets the qualification clauses for the presidency, and that adding additional qualifications might be grounds for lawsuits. Candidates should be able to access Colorado’s ballot with minimum qualifications, she told the committee. The Secretary of State works for maximum ballot access, she added. But if a major presidential candidate decides to pull out of Colorado because of the requirements, it would disenfranchise those who would vote for him or her.
Dana Liebert of Englewood told the committee she helped register voters last year. One person told her he had never voted before and never plans to. “People are profoundly cynical and hopeless about government,” she told the committee. “I want to know if Donald Trump is personally profiting from the Keystone pipeline, coal mining or the expansion of private prisons…It looks suspicious when the president breaks with tradition and won’t release his tax returns.”
The measure passed on a 7 to 5 party-line vote in the Democratic-controlled committee and now heads to the full House for debate. Its lack of bipartisan support means it’s unlikely to get through the Republican-controlled Senate.
Photo credit 401(k) 2012, via Flickr: Creative Commons