Every major-party presidential nominee since 1976 released his or her tax returns – until Donald Trump.
Now the 45th president might have started a trend away from transparency – with three candidates seeking the GOP nomination for governor of Pennsylvania refusing to release copies of their tax returns.
Democratic incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf plans to release the first two pages of his 2017 tax return and open the rest of it to inspection by reporters, according to his campaign.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports most candidates for governor since the 1990s have released all or part of their federal tax returns.
The Republican candidates – a state senator from the waste-hauling industry, a former health care systems consultant and a commercial litigation attorney – have said they will not do so.
Lawyer Laura Ellsworth said it is “unreasonably intrusive” to be expected to disclose tax information.
But tax returns reveal much about candidates seeking election to a major office.
“Voters should and do want to know where their officials' money comes from, what debts they hold and who they've done business with,” said JordanLibowitz, a spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“Tax returns give voters important information about a candidate's potential conflicts of interest and, if elected, whether they would personally benefit from the policies they promote,” said Brendan Fischer, a director with the federal Campaign Legal Center.
He told the Post-Gazette it is “incredibly unfortunate” that Trump broke with decades of tradition in refusing to release his tax returns.
“It would be even more unfortunate,” Fischer said, “if President Trump's disregard for well-established norms of ethics and transparency were replicated at the state level.”