Senate OKs Goldin bill requiring disclosure of tax returns for presidential candidates
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Gayle L. Goldin requiring presidential candidates to release their personal tax returns in order to be listed on the Rhode Island ballot.
The sponsor said people have the right to know what conflicts of interest their president may have. While state and local officials in Rhode Island are required to file ethics disclosures that publicly reveal any potential conflicts of interest, the president is held to no such standard.
President Donald Trump is the only president — and the only major party presidential candidate — in the last 40 years to refuse to publicly release his tax return. The U.S. House last week asked the IRS to release the president’s returns in an effort to seek information for investigations into his business and campaign activities, but the White House has vowed to block any release.
“We simply don’t know what financial conflicts the president has because he hasn’t disclosed them. Did he impose the Mexico City global gag rule, blocking federal funding to international nonprofit organizations that provide abortion referrals because he profits from that? Over the past month, the Trump administration has instituted rules to defund Title X, ensuring women across this country will struggle to access basic health care, and then gave nearly $2 million of that family planning money to the Obria Group, an organization that does not even believe in birth control. Does the president have a financial interest in taking this action? Is there a financial benefit to his stacking the courts with anti-choice judges?” said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence). “While his tax returns might not tell us for sure, they certainly are a good place to start.”
The legislation (2019-S 0342), which now goes to the House of Representatives, would require all candidates for United States president and vice president to file copies of their last five years of federal income tax returns with the state Board of Elections no later than 63 days prior to the primary election in order to appear on the Rhode Island ballot.
Under the proposed legislation, the Board of Elections would be required to redact certain information after consulting with the state tax administrator and director of revenue, and then to post the return on the Board of Elections website.
Unlike members of Congress, the president is exempt from many conflict-of-interest laws. Except President Trump, every president since Richard Nixon has voluntarily released his tax returns. Tax returns provide information about a candidate’s financial ties to foreign businesses and governments, business arrangements, and other potential conflicts of interest.
While it is widely known that President Trump has done business in many countries with people and firms linked to foreign governments, without his tax returns, it’s impossible to understand the scope of those deals and how they might affect his decisions in office. Additionally, tax documents from 1995 showed that he reported a $916 million loss, which tax experts say could have been used to avoid paying any federal income tax for up to 18 years.
Americans believe the president should release his or her tax returns. Prior to the President Trump’s inauguration, a survey showed that 74 percent of Americans believed he should release his tax returns, including almost half of those who voted for him.
Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) has introduced companion legislation (2019-H 5727) in the House.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903