A lot of people and group have criticized President Trump for refusing to release his tax returns during the presidential campaign and since then, but now the Maryland State Senate has done something about it.
Last night, the Democratic majority in the legislative chamber passed a bill by a margin of 28 to 17 that would require both presidential and vice presidential candidates to release the last five years of their tax returns in order to qualify to be on the ballot in that state.
The Baltimore Sun called it, “a direct assault on President Donald Trump.”
Republicans complained that there is nowhere in the U.S. Constitution that requires a candidate to release their taxes and several said it was probably unconstitutional in any case.
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The backers point to a decision in the 2000 Supreme Court ruling that put George W Bush into the White House instead of Vice President Al Gore.
It said that Article II of the Constitution, which lays out the requirements to run for President, gives state legislatures broad powers in presidential elections.
The Constitution does not give individual voters the right to vote, but rather created the Electoral College to vote for the state, at the behest of the state itself.
“The logic then goes like this,” wrote Politico in 2017 when 24 states were considering laws to require candidates to release their tax returns (none ever got passed and signed).
“If a state legislature can take back from the voters the right to vote at all for president,” wrote Politico, “it may be able to use ballot-access laws to limit the candidate choices presented to voters. and doing so would not impinge on the Qualifications Clause in Article II because Congress ultimately count the Electoral College votes and can police that clause.”
In other words, the Supreme Court could find it legal to require a candidate produce tax returns – or it might not.
If this bill were to make it through the Maryland legislature and somehow get signed by the states Republican governor, which is a long shot, the new law would certainly face a court challenge from the Trump for President in 2020 campaign, which is already up and running,
It could ultimately be upheld.
In the meanwhile, it is a way for the Democrats in Maryland to needle Trump and send out the message that a lot of people believe he should have released his returns, especially since they may show how much business he does with the Russians.
Trump, of course, has said he would not release the returns because he is being audited by the IRS, but the IRS has said it is fine with them if he does release them.
Trump is the only president other than Gerald Ford who has not released his returns since John F. Kennedy, but then nobody is confusing him with Kennedy in any case.