Senate Democrats today requested a formal opinion from Attorney General Bob Ferguson on the state’s ability to condition ballot access on whether presidential candidates release their federal tax returns.
“As millions of Americans fulfill their civic duty this week by filing tax returns, it only makes sense that they should be able to know if there is anything in their president’s tax situation that indicate he might personally benefit from decisions made by his administration,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, whose office submitted the request. “President Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns leaves the public with no way of knowing if his actions might benefit his business portfolio or foreign governments or corporations with a financial interest in his businesses.”
In his request to Ferguson, Liias also asked whether the state can enact legislation requiring the secretary of state to decline a presidential candidate’s slate of electors if the candidate or the candidate’s running mate has failed to release federal tax returns. Since November, Liias noted, legislation has been introduced in 26 states that would require any candidate for president to disclose five years of tax returns no later than 50 days prior to a general election. You can read Liias’ full request here.
“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. “Voters have a right to know of conflicts of interest or how a particular policy change might affect the president’s personal financial holdings.”
Also signing the request were Sens. Sharon Nelson, John McCoy, Sam Hunt, Patty Kuderer, Christine Rolfes, Jamie Pedersen, Rebecca Saldaña, Guy Palumbo, Mark Mullet, Lisa Wellman, Kevin Ranker, Annette Cleveland, Karen Keiser, Maralyn Chase, Jeannie Darneille and Reuven Carlyle.
“This practice dates back to President Richard Nixon who, when he released his returns in 1973, famously said, ‘People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook,’ ” Liias said. “People have a right and a need to know whether someone they are considering for president has interests that might conflict with the best interests of the country.”