Presidential Tax Disclosure California’s Latest Primary Ballot Rule

Governor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation requiring candidates for U.S. president and California governor to release five recent years of tax returns before their name can appear on the state’s primary ballot. Acknowledged by bill author State Senator Mike McGuire as a gambit to keep Donald Trump off the March 2020 ballot, the legislation says nothing about the decisive November election ballot.

Opponents of the bill, Senate Bill 57, have decried its lack of a Constitutional basis, a stance former governor Jerry Brown also cited when he vetoed the bill’s predecessor in 2017. Brown, however, also declined to produce his tax records, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow has said the president will challenge the law in court, Politico reported today.

Newsom addressed constitutionality in a message accompanying the signing: “The United States Constitution grants states the authority to determine how their electors are chosen, and California is well within its constitutional right to include this requirement.” He wrote he was following the advice of a democracy task force organized by the Brennan Center — named after liberal Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan — that advised that tax return disclosure should be codified.

“These are extraordinary times,” Newsom stated, “and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”

Others supporting California’s new election law claim financial transparency is necessary in Trump’s case, given the ongoing investigations into the president, including allegations of his company’s ties to Russia that may have extended into his 2016 campaign for the White House.

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