Don’t mess with taxes

This tax return issue really baffles me:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, an issue of accountability and credibility. You have loaned your campaign $5 million. You and your husband file a joint return. You refuse to release that joint return, even though former President Clinton has had significant overseas business dealings.

Your chief supporter here in Ohio, Governor Strickland, made releasing his opponent’s tax return one of the primary issues of the campaign, saying repeatedly, “Accountability, transparency.” If he’s not releasing, his campaign said, his tax return, what is he hiding? We should question what’s going on.

Why won’t you release your tax return, so the voters of Ohio, Texas, Vermont, Rhode Island know exactly where you and your husband got your money, who might be in part bankrolling your campaign?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, the American people who support me are bankrolling my campaign. That’s — that’s obvious. You can look and see the hundreds of thousands of contributions that I’ve gotten. And ever since I lent my campaign money, people have responded just so generously. I’m thrilled at so many people getting involved. And we’re raising, on average, about a million dollars a day on the Internet. And if anybody’s out there, wants to contribute, to be part of this campaign, just go to HillaryClinton.com, because that’s who’s funding my campaign.

And I will release my tax returns. I have consistently said that. And I will —

MR. RUSSERT: Why not now?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I will do it as others have done it: upon becoming the nominee, or even earlier, Tim, because I have been as open as I can be.

You have — the public has 20 years of records for me, and I have very extensive filings with the Senate where —

MR. RUSSERT: So, before next Tuesday’s primary?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I can’t get it together by then, but I will certainly work to get it together. I’m a little busy right now; I hardly have time to sleep. But I will certainly work toward releasing, and we will get that done and in the public domain.

She’s a little busy right now? As if she does her own taxes or something? What could really be going on here? It’s hard to imagine anything in the Clintons’ tax returns could be damaging enough to take the risk of looking so secretive and suspicious by refusing to release them. And if there is something damaging, then why would they want to wait until she’s the nominee to release it? That seems even riskier — imagine the fury that would come her way from Democrats if she wrapped up the nomination, then released tax returns that showed something really untoward?

My gut feeling is that there’s probably nothing particularly scandalous about the Clintons’ finances except that they’ve made a ton of money investing with Ron Burkle or other rich friends. If it’s anything worse than that, you would think they would have gotten the information out there early, so that it would be forgotten by the time the general election campaign came around. So what could really be going on here? Is there some fairly innocent yet slightly embarrassing explanation that would cause all this mystery and secrecy? Or is it just that they think the tax returns will be slightly scandalous, so they want to wrap up the nomination before releasing them, but they don’t think they’ll be scandalous enough to have an effect on the general election? Saying “I’ve been too busy to get around to it” is such a silly excuse that it naturally raises suspicions, but I’m perplexed at what the real explanation could be. Am I missing something obvious?

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5 responses to “Don’t mess with taxes

  1. Are we talking about tax returns filed in 2007? If so, what needs to be done to get them together, besides xeroxing?

  2. I gather that Obama released his 2006 returns, which were filed in April 2007. I don’t think he has released his returns for any other years, including this year. The Clintons haven’t released any returns since 2001 when they left the White House (presidents always release their returns, at least in recent decades). Clinton has released the financial disclosure forms that all Senators are required to file, which summarize their finances but apparently provide fewer details than tax returns.

    As far as I can tell, nominees traditionally release their returns after they become the nominee, so it was unusual for Obama to release his last year — and he may have done it as a ploy in order to be able to criticize Clinton for not releasing hers (he has tried to make transparency in government a campaign issue). Maybe she is resisting just to make the point that she’s not going to let her opponent set the timetable for when she discloses information There’s no legal requirement that candidates ever release their returns. (McCain hasn’t released his either.)

    This only became an issue when she loaned her campaign $5 million in January. Obama’s argument is that if she’s using their fortune to help herself get elected, then voters have a right to know where that money is coming from. I don’t personally care much about the Clintons’ tax returns, but their reluctance does make you wonder. In the 1992 campaign they released their tax returns back to 1980, but wouldn’t go any further back than that. And it later came out that 1978 and 1979 were the years in which she miraculously turned a $1000 investment in cattle futures into almost $100,000. I guess that history makes people suspicious about what reasons they might have for withholding returns for the years when Bill has made a fortune through his rich friends. His investments with Burkle are one issue, and apparently he has a consulting contract with the company of another friend/supporter that has earned him several million dollars in recent years.

    Who knows — maybe they just think it’s unfair to have their finances subjected to scrutiny without even knowing if she’ll be the party’s nominee. I can understand wanting my finances kept private if possible, but then I would never run for President in the first place.

  3. french windows on a provincial town

    Clinton isn’t releasing her tax returns not, probably, because there’s anything “really untoward” or “scandalous,” but because there are probably a lot of things that could provide low-level buzz and nose-holding, and she is gambling that the minor grief she gets for not releasing them will be (as it has been so far) nearly unnoticeable. Plus, she’s a secretive sort.

  4. I heard Obama say that he has released them every year since being elected — maybe because he’s always been running for President, but he said because he thinks every public official is accountable to the public.

  5. It’s amazing how much trouble I had determining what they had actually released, and when, and for what years. This happens all the time — I think the press is covering an issue until I have a specific question about it, and then I realize that they actually aren’t covering the issue at all — they’re just mentioning it in passing as they write the same boilerplate summary that has been written over and over and over.

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