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Down the Trump tax return rabbit hole

April 17, 2017
Photo: The White House by Srikanta H. U via Unsplash

So about Trump’s taxes…

After spending most of Easter weekend inside in ill health, I decided to fall into quite the rabbit hole regarding President Donald Trump’s still-unreleased tax returns.

Richard Hasen has an interesting article over at Politico about how states could force Trump to release his tax returns (if he were to run in 2020) by limiting his access to state ballots.

Lawmakers in at least 24 states have introduced bills that would force all presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns to get on the ballot.

Whether this is constitutional is another matter.

The Supreme Court already struck down measures to impose term limits on congressional candidates, holding that states were not allowed to impose new criteria for federal offices. (U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton)

However, in Bush v. Gore, the court ruled that Article II gives state legislators broad power to choose presidential electors. This power is so broad that legislators could theoretically take back the ability to vote for electors altogether given that the constitution does not necessarily include a right for citizens to vote for the president.

The argument is that if legislators can take back voting rights from everyday citizens, they should also be able to decide which candidate to present to the voters.

I find this line of argument unconvincing. The Supreme Court has allowed states to have modest ballot-access requirements to ferret out unserious candidates (like filing fees and petition signatures.) A state could convincingly argue that sending over a copy of your tax return is along these lines. (And law profs agree.)

This could also be a big waste of time for the purposes of seeing Trump’s tax returns — the proposed bills are most likely to pass in solid blue states that Trump would never win anyway. Trump could simply skip these states if he runs again and keep his taxes a secret. 💸


How States Could Force Trump to Release His Tax Returns,” Richard L. Hasen, Politico.

Candidates who won’t disclose taxes shouldn’t be on the ballot,” Laurence H. Tribe, Richard W. Painter and Norman L. Eisen, CNN.

Don’t use the ballot to get Trump’s tax returns,” Derek T. Muller, The New York Times.

Running for president? Some states want tax returns public,” Cathy Bussewitz, The Associated Press

Photo: Srikanta H. U.

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