Washington state Democrats are trying to rewrite the state’s ballot access laws in an effort to keep President Donald Trump off of the ballot in 2020.
Much like an effort advanced by New Jersey Democrats, the Washington state proposal, which cleared the state’s Senate last Tuesday, requires that in order to be on the ballot, any candidate for president or vice president has to release five years’ worth of tax returns.
The returns would then be publicly posted online.
“Although releasing tax returns has been the norm for about the last 40 years in presidential elections, unfortunately we’ve seen that norm broken,” said Democratic state Sen. Patty Kuderer, according to CBS.
“It’s become part of the vetting process,” she later added.
Although releasing tax returns is not required under federal law, it had been common practice for Trump’s predecessors in the Oval Office and most other major presidential candidates.
Trump, a businessman with a wide range of private holdings prior to his election, has said he would not release his taxes because they are being audited.
Some Republicans questioned the legislation.
“We’re on really risky ground when we’re trying to place conditions on a federal election,” said Republican Sen. Hans Zeiger.
Republican Sen. Maureen Walsh said the legislation sends a troubling message.
“I just don’t understand why in the world you would promote something that would connote that there’s something suspicious about the activities of our elected officials,” she said.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Solicitor General Noah Purcell told legislators in a ruling that, “The disclosure requirement you propose is likely Constitutional.”
They also said it would likely face a court challenge if enacted into law.
In Maine, Democratic state Rep.Seth Berry introduced a similar bill, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Berry said it was “unfortunate and even unethical” that Trump did not release his taxes.
A similar bill is also pending in Illinois, the Illinois News Network noted.
Republican state Sen. Dale Righter said that despite claims from the bill’s advocates that the ballot access law is legal, it “clearly is not.”
“The Constitution lays out the qualifications to be a candidate for president. States aren’t allowed to add to those qualifications. The bill that we heard in committee … clearly attempts to do that. It’s clearly unconstitutional,” he said.
States are not the only ones wanting a peek at Trump’s taxes.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, is expected to use a 1924 law as a vehicle to try to get a look at the returns, according to USA Today.
However, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the committee last week that asking is not the same as getting.
“We will examine the request and we will follow the law … and we will protect the president as we would protect any taxpayer” regarding the right to privacy, Mnuchin said.
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