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Democratic State Legislators Propose Ballot Threats to Force Trump’s Hand on Tax Returns

Democratic State Legislators Propose Ballot Threats to Force Trump’s Hand on Tax Returns

In trying to outmaneuver Trump on the issue of his tax returns, Democrats are once again overplaying their hand.

In the last two months, Congressional Democrats have seen their collusion hopes go up in flames, and their dreams of impeachment more or less squelched by Democratic party leaders.

In spite of that, Democrats have what they believe is a viable backup plan they think will embarrass President Trump going into the 2020 elections: Increasing the pressure on him to release his tax returns.

To force the issue, Democratic party legislators in over half a dozen states want laws in place to keep him off of general election ballots in their respective states if he refuses to do so, per Axios (bolded emphasis theirs):

Driving the news: Illinois’ state senate recently passed a bill that would require people running for president or vice president to disclose their tax returns from the past five years.

The big picture: Illinois is not alone. Per the National Conference of State Legislatures

“As of February 20, 2017 legislators in 18 states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia) have introduced bills” to require “future presidential candidates to disclose income tax returns in order to be placed on the general election ballot.”

The bottom line: None of these bills have been signed into law (yet). But it seems possible — even likely — that at least one blue state might put it in place. And that potential scenario is giving Trump allies pause.

Presidential candidates are not required by law to release their tax returns to the public, and any state-level attempts at requiring them to would most definitely lead to court challenges, says the NCSL’s Dylan Lynch:

For many, the question is: Can states set this requirement, constitutionally speaking? Although states have authority to administer presidential elections, Article II of the U.S. Constitution outlines the qualifications for the presidency: The candidate must be a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old and have been a resident within the U.S. for the past 14 years. The possible addition of a new criteria established by a state would surely face a court battle.

Former assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy backed that up, saying these proposed laws were toothless:

While states do run elections, legal experts said they can’t add requirements to be president.

“The Constitution has spoken to that,” said Andrew McCarthy of the National Review Institute and a Fox News contributor. “And if you want to change the qualifications for presidency, including if you want to add a qualification that says you have to release your tax returns, you need to amend the Constitution.”

Interestingly enough, in 2017 when California’s Democratic governor Jerry Brown had the chance to sign such legislation into law, he vetoed it:

Brown said in a letter to lawmakers that he worried the proposed law might not be constitutional and that it could have led to other litmus tests for candidates.

“Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?” Brown wrote. “Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?”

Trump has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns, stating that he was under audit. It was a position he took as a candidate in 2016 and he has maintained it as president:

Trump broke with 40 years of presidential-campaign precedent when he refused to release his tax returns as a candidate. He said he was under audit and that he would consider releasing them when the audits were complete. No law prevents the release of tax returns that are under audit.

Earlier Tuesday, a White House spokesman said Trump is still “not inclined” to hand over the paperwork despite the deadline.

“The president is pretty clear. Once he’s out of audit, he will think about doing it. He’s not inclined to do so at this time,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News.

Trump has also said numerous times in response to repeated requests for his tax returns that ultimately his supporters don’t care about them, and that it’s only the media and Democrats who do. He may be right, considering he was elected in spite of his refusal to release them in 2016.

The battle over this issue will wage on in the coming months as Democrats try to build momentum going into the 2020 elections. But Trump has successfully managed to keep them at bay on his tax returns so far, and state-level efforts to force the issue will ultimately fail because they are unconstitutional, so the likelihood of him being kept off of any ballots is slim to none.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —


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I was listening to some legal scholars and they said they can’t. It will be shot down quickly.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to MarkSmith. | May 1, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    I am looking forward to seeing what Trump comes up with to punish these clowns. He has repeatedly produced some dozies. Like moving the embassy. Or closing the border.

    How about Hillary being charged? Or, how about the Martin Scheme Team being charged for civil rights violations, maybe RICO charges for organizing a national persecution?

    MarkS in reply to MarkSmith. | May 2, 2019 at 7:09 am

    If my memory isn’t too faulty, I believe that during Obama some state tried to keep him off the ballot for not showing his birth certificate and it was shot down by a federal judge ruling that the Party vets the candidate and once nominated he must be placed on the ballot

      Tom Servo in reply to MarkS. | May 2, 2019 at 8:17 am

      The most important case that is on point came when the Term Limit movement was trying to bring about term limits for Congressional officeholders. A 1995 Supreme Court decision held that States had no the power to add any qualifications for Federal Office other than those that were found in the Constitution itself. States could place limits on State officeholders, but they were not allowed to place any limits on Federal officeholders.

      So, this claim that States can add extra requirements to enable someone to appear on a ballot in a Federal Election has already been to the Supreme Court, and has already lost.

      (what legal types call a Binding Precedent)

Ghost Rider | May 1, 2019 at 7:49 pm

The Founding Fathers would say: “What are Income Tax returns, and why should they have any bearing on who is eligible to run for President.”

    Milhouse in reply to Ghost Rider. | May 1, 2019 at 11:52 pm

    Well, the four dissenters in Thornton believed the founders would have said that states can impose whatever criteria they like on ballot access. Tax returns, hairstyle, dissertation on Russian literature, whatever.

      DaveGinOly in reply to Milhouse. | May 2, 2019 at 12:33 am

      Really? Anything?
      Like pro-life? Pro-gun? Christian?

      I don’t think so.

        Milhouse in reply to DaveGinOly. | May 2, 2019 at 12:55 am

        Not Christian, because the constitution explicitly prohibits such a requirement. But pro-gun or pro-life, I think the dissenters would allow. But only for congressional candidates, not for presidential ones.

          Tom Servo in reply to Milhouse. | May 2, 2019 at 8:22 am

          As you well know, you can find all kinds of interesting/pernicious/wonderful ideas in Minority Opinions, there’s over 200 years worth of them to go through. And every one of them is nothing more than fodder for law students and term papers. The only thing that unites every single Minority Opinion (with the exception of a rare few that later became Majority Opinions) is that they all have been ruled to be Wrong by the Supreme Court.

          and as the saying goes, the Supreme Court isn’t Final because it’s always right, the Supreme Court is Always Right because it’s Final.

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | May 2, 2019 at 10:03 am

          Here in this subthread we are not discussing what the law is, but what the founders would have said. The four dissenters in Thornton, who are in general a more reliable guide to the founders’ actual thinking than are the five justices in the majority, thought the founders would have been fine with such restrictions for congressional candidates. That is a strong indication that this is true.

          More than that, the fact that those four thought so then is a strong (but not certain) indication that today’s court might well reverse Thornton if it were ever to come up again. But it won’t, at least not in the next few years.

          At any rate, any opinion by those four justices cannot ever be dismissed as ridiculous.

Dems want everyone (and their dog) to vote… but only for the candidate they offer. This is voter suppression Dem style right out of the Communist Party play book.

Christopher B | May 1, 2019 at 8:03 pm

Brown’s not dumb. If the tax return proposal got shot down as unconstitutional it would likely invalidate all kinds of laws states put in place to make it difficult for candidates from minor parties to get on ballots.

Fascists being fascists. Note the dumbocrats keep using “our democracy”. Fascists is what they are now, they don’t want a republic because they can be stopped more easily from robbing taxpayers.

TX-rifraph | May 1, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Time for a flat tax.

    ronk in reply to TX-rifraph. | May 1, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    always believed the flat rate tax is the only way to be fair, flat rate on all income no matter what the source

      rabidfox in reply to ronk. | May 2, 2019 at 1:46 pm

      I’d prefer only a Federal Sales tax to any kind of income/wealth tax. That way everyone, legal or not, rich and poor, on welfare or working has to pay his/her fair share when they buy things. Allow food and prescription meds to be exempt if necessary.

    clintack in reply to TX-rifraph. | May 2, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    How would that fix this?

    You’d still need to file a list of your sources of income for the year.

    They could still be used for fishing expeditions.

Democrats must feel naked since their fascist insiders exposed themselves during a multi-trimester witch hunt and failed warlock trial. #HateLovesAbortion, baby.

healthguyfsu | May 1, 2019 at 9:33 pm

Sounds like classic voter suppression to me…of the legitimate variety.

healthguyfsu | May 1, 2019 at 9:33 pm

Sounds like classic voter suppression to me…of the legitimate variety.

going to be interesting to see how they word it so that the Democrats don’t have to do it, just the republicans do esp Trump.

Time to demand tax returns of:

Oprah winfrey
Biden and his family
Al Gore
Barbara Streisand
Eric holder
loretta lynch
hillary clinton
james comey
maxine waters
john lewis
alcee hastings (remember: he was a federal judge who got impeached)
barbara lee
al green
hank johnson
marcia fudge
corey booker
kamala harris

It’s a good start, no?

I read that NY State is working on legislation to empower the State taxing authority to release any individual’s or corporation’s State tax return on request by a Congresscritter (or at least a Committee). If the NY Assembly and Senate pass this, Cuomo is sure to sign it (I think, unless he recognizes that his tax returns would be fair game when it came to playing turnabout’s fair play).

Why the Hell don’t the Socialist-Democrats declare the New Civil War open and get it over with? Well, obviously because the way things are now they can attack at will and suffer no consequences. Open warfare would be a horse of a different color.

    Sauce for the goose. All the Dem politicians in NY don’t dare allow this to happen, although they can jawbone it into fund raising and vote-getting.

“And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?”

Why yes, they will.

This is a non-starter. It’s well-established law that “the Constitution prohibits States from imposing congressional qualifications additional to those specifically enumerated in its text”, and that “a state […] measure is unconstitutional when it has the likely effect of handicapping a class of candidates and has the sole purpose of creating additional qualifications indirectly”. The exact same reasoning applies to presidential candidates as well. I don’t see how any lower court could possibly draw enough distinction between congressional and presidential candidates to uphold such a measure. (Ironically, the current Supreme Court majority might be inclined in principle to strike Thornton down, but I don’t believe it would ever reach them.)

    Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | May 2, 2019 at 12:47 am

    Actually it gets better. I’m now reading Thomas’s dissent, and while arguing that states can add to the qualifications of their congressional candidates, he concedes that they cannot do so for presidential candidates.

    “The people of a single State may not prescribe qualifications for the President of the United States; the selection of the President, like the operation of the Bank of the United States, is not up to the people of any single State.”

    “Arkansas may not decree that only Arkansas citizens are eligible to be President of the United States; the selection of the President is not up to Arkansas alone, and Arkansas can no more prescribe the qualifications for that office than it can set the qualifications for Members of Congress from Florida.”

To be even handed, one should note some red states played this same theatre over Obama’s birth certificate.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Andy. | May 2, 2019 at 12:38 am

    The issue there was a constitutionally valid qualification for the office – being a natural born citizen.
    Last time I looked, even just paying income taxes wasn’t a constitutional qualification for the office of the presidency.

    Milhouse in reply to Andy. | May 2, 2019 at 12:39 am

    I think states are entitled to demand proof that a candidate has the constitutional qualifications.

    If Occasional Cortex were to run for president claiming to be 35, do you think states would have to take her word for it and put her on the ballot? I think they would have every right to demand proof of age. And the same must be true of the other two criteria: natural-born citizenship, and 14 years’ residence in the USA.

    Andy in reply to Andy. | May 2, 2019 at 2:09 am

    I respectfully disagree. States trying to keep the sitting president off the ballot is jackassery and a waste of resources. I don’t care which party does it. It’s petty and stupid.

    The morons in Washington state are trying it now, meanwhile we are the nations destination and sewer for homeless addicts. Ho- but we got resources for this garbage and climate change.

      healthguyfsu in reply to Andy. | May 2, 2019 at 9:06 am

      Respectfully, you can dislike it but you are still wrong regarding Constitutionality.

      Some are actual requirements of the office.

    alaskabob in reply to Andy. | May 2, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    Issue was citizenship. Look what the Dems demanded of McStain. Anyway… whether a forged birth certificate or not … his mother was American AND my guess is his father was American.. so natural born.

    The real issue was if Obama got scholarships presenting himself as a foreign student.. denying his citizenship for financial gain.

      Milhouse in reply to alaskabob. | May 2, 2019 at 3:58 pm

      His father of record was not American. But that’s irrelevant.

      And there is absolutely no foundation whatsoever for the bizarre idea that he got scholarships presenting himself as a foreign student. Why don’t you just claim he’s a lizard person and be done with it?

“… require “future presidential candidates to disclose income tax returns in order to be placed on the general election ballot.”

Would he be considered “future”?

Sounds like it could be the election of 1876 all over again. The D’rats tried to screw that one up, too.

Does anyone who’s thinking like an adult really believe that the IRS hasn’t already gone over Trumps tax returns like a doctor doing a colonoscopy? The same IRS that during the Obama years (illegally) targeted political action groups for expensive additional documentation requirements and audits based on whether the name contained keywords like “tea party” or other conservative tells? And then never had a single employee punished for those illegalities?

Seriously, given recent IRS shenanigans and the lack of any pushback for same, is there any chance that there’s some sort of Trump tax illegality that the IRS is covering up for him, or even any embarrassing revelations that they’re refraining from leaking?

If the Dems figure out a (legal) way to single out a single political opponent for Tax requirements above and beyond what everyone else has to undergo, I would hope we go all Allenski on their @sses. If it’s so suspicious that a presidential candidate who’s also a businessman made millions, how much more suspicious is it that a career politician (like say Nancy P) made millions on a congressional salary? Or that close family of career politicians (like say Joe B) made millions despite having no visible qualifications for their good business luck other than Who they’re related to?

    Jackie in reply to BobM. | May 2, 2019 at 6:51 am

    Also Mueller. Barr said he didn’t know if Mueller went over Trump’s taxes and he left it out in the Mueller report, probably because without evidence of a crime combing through someone’s returns is probably illegal. Does anyone doubt that Mueller using a flimsy excuse got a court order to go over Trump’s taxes and found absolutely nothing.

    Edward in reply to BobM. | May 2, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    The point of this exercise isn’t to try and find unpaid taxes or other illegal activity. The point is to find anything which can be used to embarrass the President. For example, if his corporation is legally entitled to file a tax return with fewer dollars owed than my personal filing, that will be a yuuuge thing to ballyhoo ocean to ocean and border to border. Those who understand how tax returns and the tax laws work won’t care, but there are lots of people for whom the Socialist-Democrats can turn their greedy green inner selves against the President.

I just keep suspecting this is another Trump troll. His returns will not be useful to democrats.

The notion of presidential and vice-presidential candidates named on a ballot is actually an extra-legal device, since we do not vote for those individuals directly anyway. We vote for presidential electors instead, whose names in most states do not appear on the ballot. The certification of nominees for president and vice-president is made by the national conventions of their respective parties, and the whole process is held together by chewing gum and bailing wire since it is only by loose agreement on such nominations that they can appear on ballots uniformly across the country.

If measures such as those described are adopted by renegade blue states, then I wonder if it would be possible for the parties affected to name placeholders on the ballot or just have the designation “Republican/Democrat presidential electors” instead. If such states refuse to allow that then I think there would be a very good possibility of such presidential electors being instated on the ballot by court order, because then the state would be imposing a condition on the party rather than the candidates.

Memo for Democrats: Had there been a national income tax in 1860, there ain’t a doubt in my retired military mind that this is the kind of s**t the Southern slave states would have pulled to keep Abe Lincoln off the ballot.

Ruminate on that in your intersectional safe spaces.