Tax returns and presidential candidates

Some Democratic lawmakers want to know if they can legally keep President Donald Trump’s name off the ballot in Washington in 2020 if he doesn’t release his tax returns.

Some Democratic lawmakers want to know if they can legally keep President Donald Trump’s name off the ballot in Washington in 2020 if he doesn’t release his tax returns.

If not, they want to know if they can prevent presidential candidates from receiving any of the state’s electoral votes if they haven’t made those tax records public.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, posed those questions to Attorney General Bob Ferguson last month and awaits a formal legal opinion.

Now Ferguson is inviting the public to weigh in.

Whether you are a lawyer or only watch them on television, you have until May 24 to make Ferguson’s office aware of your interest in commenting on Liias’ request. To do so, send an email to Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Even at jeff.even@atg.wa.gov. Someone is then supposed to let you know when your comments are due.

Trump’s refusal to make his federal income tax returns public in the 2016 campaign has spurred efforts to tie ballot access to release of tax returns by presidential candidates in future elections.

It is a hot pursuit of mostly Democratic state lawmakers around the country who argue it will ensure greater transparency about those seeking the nation’s highest office. There’s been legislation introduced in roughly two dozen states, from Hawaii to California to New York.

New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled Legislature passed a bill in March to bar presidential candidates from appearing on the November ballot unless they disclose their federal income tax returns for the five most recent years before an election. Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it Monday. He called it a stunt and said if the lawmakers’ “polestar is truly transparency” they should axe the part of state law exempting their legislative records from public disclosure.

In Washington, Liias’ sent his letter to Ferguson on April 17. It was signed by 17 of his fellow Democratic senators.

“Every major party candidate for president in the past 40 years has released their tax returns, with the exception of the current president,” Liias said in a statement. “Voters have a right to know of conflicts of interest or how a particular policy change might affect the president’s personal financial holdings.”

The U.S. Constitution sets basic qualifications for presidential candidates. In the letter, Liias asks if the Constitution or any federal statute pre-empts the state from going further and requiring candidates to “disclose information the state believes relevant to holding the office” in order to appear on the ballot in the presidential primary or November elections.

In the alternative, senators want to know if lawmakers can bar the Secretary of State from accepting the list of electors from a political party if their presidential or vice presidential nominee did not release their federal tax returns in the 12 months before receiving the nomination.

Liias explained this week he wanted to get the legal lay of the land before attempting to push a bill through the political process. While Trump’s refusal to release his taxes inspired the undertaking, the president is not the sole target, Liias. And if Trump doesn’t seek re-election, then any change in state law would not apply to him.

“I’m not just throwing it out to poke at Trump,” he said Tuesday. “In 2020, if Howard Schultz runs for president I want him to disclose his taxes.”

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

More in Opinion

Humility allows for tolerance of other’s opinions

Each of us has grown up in different circumstances. Each has been shaped by our life experiences. Each of us sees the world around us differently as a result. Why, then, should it be so difficult to understand that no two people will agree on every issue?

President Trump working toward the vision of our Founders

President Trump is working to return power and liberty to the people.

Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.

Culture, politics have and continue to shape race relations

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

Better luck this year, Eyman

2017 was a stinky year for Tim Eyman. It ended with a thud last week when he confessed to not collecting enough signatures to get onto the ballot a measure that would reduce car tab fees and kneecap Sound Transit.

Every day, I was inspired by citizens of Enumclaw | Liz Reynolds

Whether we’ve seen eye to eye or simply disagreed, my conversations with all of you, on the sidewalks of downtown, at restaurants or in grocery stores, council meetings to community auctions, are what have kept me inspired, kept me going and kept me feisty.

Fake news or bad reporting?

This has not been a good month for reporting. But one wrong fact does not fake news make.

Don’t label all Trump supporters as racist

While the column correctly points out that Trump supporters are happy with his performance and still enthusiastically support him, Mr. Elfers had to inject the liberal “lie” that Trump supporters are racist.

Political turmoil makes nations stronger

Finish this sentence: “What doesn’t kill you___________.” This is how I introduced my recent continuing education class entitled, “President Trump a Year Later.” Of course, this quote is normally completed with the words, “makes you stronger.”

U.S., Russia agree on Middle East situation

Since Russia helped Syria’s Bashar al-Assad stay in power and helped to defeat ISIS, are Russia and the U.S. at odds in the Middle East? Is Russia threatening American dominance in the region? The answer to both is no.

Page-turners: Best books of 2017

Continuing an end-of-year tradition that dates back more than 15 years, the King County Library System has chosen its Best Books of 2017.

Anthem protests about equality, not disrespect

For all who write negative comments about the football players who took a knee and posted that “this is not the America we grew up in,” let me share a few of the personal events from my life growing up in Tacoma Washington as a white woman.