It was an almost brilliant plan cooked up by the California state legislature earlier this year. In an effort to see what other damage they might be able to inflict upon Donald Trump, legislators put together a bill which would require presidential candidates to release their last five years of tax returns in order to appear on the ballot. Assuming that the President plans on running for a second term, that would have (or more correctly, might have) forced his hand and gotten the long-sought documents out into the hands of California’s Democrats.
Having crafted the legislation and completed the requisite ceremony of patting each other on the back, all was in readiness for the Democrats’ victory celebration. That is, at least until they ran into an unexpected wall of opposition. Their own governor, Jerry Brown, has vetoed the bill and sent them back to the drawing board. (Free Beacon)
California Gov. Jerry Brown blocked fellow state Democrats from forcing President Donald Trump and other presidential candidates to disclose their personal income tax returns, arguing that such a requirement goes too far and could lead to increased demands for other personal records.
Brown’s veto is a rare rejection of his state’s Democratic legislators’ efforts to distance themselves from Trump. The measure would have required all presidential candidates to disclose five years of income tax information to qualify for the California ballot.
State Democrats passed the bill this summer in response to Trump’s refusal to release his returns during the last election. The bill is just one of several, including the state’s recent sanctuary state law, which Democrats passed to publicly confront Trump.
So why is Jerry Brown, leader of the One True Sanctuary State, spitting in the Corn Flakes of his own party? We can safely say that he hasn’t suddenly developed a deep and abiding respect for the current Oval Office occupant and his political welfare. No, he’s worried that this might be a bridge too far, not in terms of what he might like to do to Donald Trump, but rather how it might affect other candidates down the line. And by “other candidates” we’re obviously talking about Democrats.
Brown is citing the slippery slope argument here. If the state can demand tax returns as a prerequisite for appearing on the ballot (which most candidates provide, but on a voluntary basis) then all sorts of records could be next. Among these he lists:
- Health records
- A certified birth certificate
- High school report cards
There’s always been a question of legality in demanding tax returns from candidates. That information is supposed to be private and the government isn’t supposed to expose anyone’s individual tax information to the public. Asking politicians to voluntarily provide it is fine and I suppose it’s useful in terms of making sure that the people in charge of taxing you are paying their own share. But when the state government compels you to provide it things get murkier. True, they could say that nobody is forcing the candidate to run, but it’s still a mandatory act.
How about those other records? Can the states demand health records? Good health isn’t a requirement for any elected office I know of, though people would obviously like to feel confident that the person they choose will have a decent chance of being around to finish the term. A birth certificate is reasonable enough for presidential candidates, but not many other offices. And high school report cards? That one could backfire quickly if we turn it into college transcripts. (Barack Obama would have had some questions to answer on that one.)
One last thing to consider on the tax return front in general and Trump in particular is whether he’d have even gone along with it if it passed constitutional muster. Keep in mind that they couldn’t disqualify him entirely from the 2020 race… only from being on the ballot in California. It’s a state which Donald Trump had zero chance of winning last time and will be similarly impossible three years from now. He could simply opt not to appear on their ballot, encourage everyone to write in his name and finish with the same number of electoral votes he would have had anyway.
And what happens then? The only person being subjected to additional scrutiny would be the Democrat. And this applies to other offices and all future races. Republicans don’t win too many contests in California, so the Democratic primary tends to be the actual general election in many cases. This law could wind up shooting the California Democratic Party in the foot down the road.
Huh. Perhaps Jerry Brown isn’t so crazy after all.