Rami Atallah of Shoreline marches in Seattle’s Tax Day Protest earlier this year. Photo by Alex Garland

Dems Want to Keep Trump Off the Ballot If He Doesn’t Release His Tax Returns

A group of legislators is asking the attorney general if such a thing is possible.

OLYMPIA — Some Democratic lawmakers want to know if they can legally keep President Donald Trump’s name off the ballot in Washington in 2020 if he doesn’t release his tax returns.

If not, they want to know if they can prevent presidential candidates from receiving any of the state’s electoral votes if they haven’t made those tax records public.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, posed those questions to Attorney General Bob Ferguson last month and awaits a formal legal opinion.

Now Ferguson is inviting the public to weigh in.

Whether you are a lawyer or only watch them on television, you have until May 24 to make Ferguson’s office aware of your interest in commenting on Liias’ request. To do so, send an email to Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Even at jeff.even@atg.wa.gov. Someone is then supposed to let you know when your comments are due.

Trump’s refusal to make his federal income tax returns public in the 2016 campaign has spurred efforts to tie ballot access to release of tax returns by presidential candidates in future elections.

It is a hot pursuit of mostly Democratic state lawmakers around the country who argue it will ensure greater transparency about those seeking the nation’s highest office. There’s been legislation introduced in roughly two dozen states, from Hawaii to California to New York.

New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled Legislature passed a bill in March to bar presidential candidates from appearing on the November ballot unless they disclose their federal income tax returns for the five most recent years before an election. Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it Monday. He called it a stunt and said if the lawmakers’ “polestar is truly transparency” they should axe the part of state law exempting their legislative records from public disclosure.

In Washington, Liias’ sent his letter to Ferguson on April 17. It was signed by 17 of his fellow Democratic senators.

“Every major party candidate for president in the past 40 years has released their tax returns, with the exception of the current president,” Liias said in a statement. “Voters have a right to know of conflicts of interest or how a particular policy change might affect the president’s personal financial holdings.”

The U.S. Constitution sets basic qualifications for presidential candidates. In the letter, Liias asks if the Constitution or any federal statute pre-empts the state from going further and requiring candidates to “disclose information the state believes relevant to holding the office” in order to appear on the ballot in the presidential primary or November elections.

In the alternative, senators want to know if lawmakers can bar the Secretary of State from accepting the list of electors from a political party if their presidential or vice presidential nominee did not release their federal tax returns in the 12 months before receiving the nomination.

Liias explained this week he wanted to get the legal lay of the land before attempting to push a bill through the political process. While Trump’s refusal to release his taxes inspired the undertaking, the president is not the sole target, Liias. And if Trump doesn’t seek re-election, then any change in state law would not apply to him.

“I’m not just throwing it out to poke at Trump,” he said Tuesday. “In 2020, if Howard Schultz runs for president I want him to disclose his taxes.”

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

More in News & Comment

The Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity filed an appeal to the Seattle Hearing Examiner on Monday evening. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Seattle Coalition Appeals Zoning Changes

The 26-group coalition filed an appeal against proposed upzoning that aims to increase housing affordability.

Jenny Durkan Sworn in as Mayor of Seattle

The city’s first female mayor in over a century began her first shift on a citywide tour.

Police Found Gold Bars and Guns During Massive Marijuana Grow-Op Bust

They searched 10 King County locations during the investigation late last month. Sixty have been arrested so far.

Allan Phillips, the former co-owner of Carleton Avenue Grocery, stands outside of the Georgetown establishment on Wednesday. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
After the City’s Oldest Grocery Store Closes, Customers Look Elsewhere for Food and Community

Georgetown’s Carleton Avenue Grocery closed on October 31, leaving the neighborhood with a deeper dearth of food options.

Photo by Visitor7/Wikimedia
Counties Fed Up With Unfunded Mandates May Sue the State

For example, no money has been provided to install, maintain and clear out required ballot boxes.

A Beloved Eatery Closes, Whole Foods Is Ordered to Open, and a Mother Boycotts an Inquest.

Plus, the latest on the Black Diamond City Council recall attempt.

Homelessness Prevention Program Keeps 3,000 Housed

The initiative, which is funded by the Best Starts for Kids levy, is helping stabilize families at risk of homelessness.

State Representative Paul Graves Wants to Make the Legislature’s Records Public

The Fall City legislator aims to make all legislators subject to public records requests in 2018

Most Read