Before President Trump, candidates for the highest office in the country have disclosed some of their tax returns. There's currently no federal law requiring them to do so. Now one state lawmaker is considering crafting legislation that would require candidates to disclose their tax returns in order to be on the ballot in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
That lawmaker is Democratic Representative Suzanne Smith. She spoke earlier today with NHPR's Peter Biello.
When did you get the idea for this?
Well, I was approached by a constituent about six months ago who requested that since the federal government, the Congress, was not doing this, implementing this legislation, that it was important that someone do it, and asked if I would introduce this legislation. Upon doing research, I found that at least 28 other states are in the process or have introduced legislation demanding or requiring presidential candidates to report their tax returns.
How would you want the bill to work?
The bill that is still in the works would require that before the presidential primary any candidate who wishes to run for President would be required to submit federal tax returns to the Secretary of State's office and those, before the election, would be posted on the Secretary of State's website.
Would they be the most recent tax returns?
They would be the most recent, but we're still working on the legislation, so I can't really say how many years we would require. And then before the general election, the vice presidential candidate would also have to file. And this is something that is not a new idea. Candidates have been filing their tax returns since Richard Nixon. In the most recent presidential election, Mike Pence filed his tax return. Carly Fiorina. John Kasich. Tim Kaine. Hillary Clinton. So, you know it's not a new thing and it's a bipartisan practice and precedent that candidates would file their tax returns.
In your opinion, is President Trump's refusal to disclose going to send a message to other candidates, saying, "Look I didn't have to, now you don't have to?"
That's one reason for the legislation. It's important for, in the issue of transparency, for the public to know the background and the history of the candidates running for office.
Is this an attempt to get President Trump in particular to disclose his tax returns before New Hampshire's next presidential primary?
Although he is the most recent and the most outspoken against filing his tax returns, and yes, it would, if it took effect before the next election in 2020, he would have to do it. But it would also be for the other candidates also. If you're serious about running for president, the people should be able to know what your tax returns say was your income, or your loss of income.
The legislature is controlled by Republicans right now. Do you think there's bipartisan support for something like this?
We'll find out. I have spoken to at least one Republican who said, 'I don't think tax returns will tell us anything.' But I don't really agree with that. And there will be a lot of education involved, on both sides of the aisle, between now and January, when the bill will be introduced into committee.