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California to Trump: No Tax Returns, No Ballot

There’s absolutely, positively no way this could blow up in Democrats faces, right?

California Democrats sure do love their taxes, maybe even more than they hate Donald Trump. Now, thanks to some creative legislation, they’ve managed to combine their two biggest hobbies into one package—and it’s a a humdinger for sure. USA Today has the details:

The California Legislature is attempting to force presidential candidates to publicly disclose their tax returns — a move that could bar President Donald Trump from appearing on the state’s primary ballot if he does not make the documents public. 

The state Senate voted 27-10 on Thursday to require anyone appearing on the state’s presidential primary ballot to publicly release five years’ worth of income tax returns. The proposal is in response to Trump, who bucked 40 years of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns prior to his election in 2016.

Ah, tradition! It’s good to see Democrats embracing that again—especially after ditching traditional values when it comes to mundane stuff like religion and family. With presidential tax returns, though, thank heaven they’ve got their priorities straight.

Of course, there’s a big difference between traditional and constitutionally mandated—a nuance that seems to be lost on the California legislature.

California’s presidential primary is scheduled for March 3. If the bill becomes law, Trump could not appear on the state’s primary ballot without filing his tax returns with the California secretary of state.

Because the California secretary of state’s office has a total right to see the federal tax returns of anybody it wants for any reason it wants, right? No overreach there, folks.

“We believe that President Trump, if he truly doesn’t have anything to hide, should step up and release his tax returns,” said Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat from Healdsburg and the co-author of the bill along with Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat.

Yes, because there’s absolutely no way, no how that Democrats and the media would attempt to portray whatever they might find in Trump’s returns in a negative light, even if everything turns out to be perfectly legal and above board—right? I mean, it’s not like they have a track record of smearing innocent people with innuendo and outright lies. Just ask Brett Kavanaugh and the Covington kids.

In fact, this is such a reasonable law that I would have been shocked to find that California hadn’t tried to pass something like it before. And, as it turns out, it actually did:

The Legislature passed a nearly identical bill in 2017, only to have it vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, telling lawmakers he was concerned the law was unconstitutional. Brown, a Democrat, refused to release his tax returns while in office. 

But. . .but. . .if Jerry Brown truly didn’t have anything to hide, why didn’t he step up and release his tax returns during the entirety of his last eight years in office? And why, during all that time, did it only become important to the California legislature after Trump got elected in 2016? It sure seems as if the crisis of unreleased tax returns would be felt ever greater so close to home. If it didn’t matter in Sacramento, why should it matter in DC?

The truth is, it doesn’t. Perhaps there could be something in Trump’s taxes that isn’t on the up-and-up—although given the nature of his business interests, it’s far more likely that he employed some creative but entirely legal accounting to minimize his tax burden, which would prove more embarrassing than criminal. At any rate, there is no requirement under the Constitution that Trump—or any other presidential candidate, for that matter—release his or her tax returns as a condition to run for office. For a state to create an arbitrary standard like that is shaky at best, and likely unconstitutional.

It also opens the door to complete chaos. After all, it isn’t only Blue states that can play this game. What if a Republican-controlled state decided to get in on the action and pass its own law that did the same thing to a Democrat presidential candidate? I can only imagine the howling that would have occurred if, say, Mississippi and Alabama had kept Barack Obama off its ballot back in 2008 unless he produced a verified copy of his birth certificate. The same people cheering California on would have been the first to cry foul.

California’s misbegotten bill is a farce, to be sure—but with a dark, totalitarian impulse at its core. Should it become law, hopefully the courts will see that and strike it down forthwith.

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