CA Legislature Now Determining Which Presidential Candidates You Can Vote For
What’s in President Trump’s tax returns? It’s a mystery that has stumped cable television pundits since he refused to release them during the 2016 campaign. At times, the furor has been so high that I’m surprised that Matlock or Jessica Fletcher were not called out of retirement to investigate.
Democrats in Congress are dying to know and are fighting with the President and his lawyers over a congressional subpoena issued earlier this year.
Now enter the California Legislature. Not content to dictate how you run your business, raise your kids, or what care you drive, they now want to dictate what presidential candidates you can vote for on the California ballot.
Last week, lawmakers passed the “Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act” (Senate Bill 27, by Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg) to require presidential candidates to send the state 5 years of tax returns to qualify for California’s primary. The Secretary of State would be required to post the returns online. The Sacramento Bee reports that Gov. Newsom is expected to soon sign the measure into law.
What are the qualifications to run for President?
Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution says that “no person except a natural born citizen . . . shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person have been eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.”
No mention of tax returns. Since the Constitution sets the qualifications for President, not the states, it’s likely SB 27 would be tossed out in court.
In a press release, Sen. Scott Weiner, the bill’s joint author, said that, “voters should have confidence that their President is working for them and not to enrich himself or herself.”
It’s a fact that presidents from both parties – including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton – made money from serving as the nation’s chief executive. Once out of office, presidents routinely make millions of dollars writing books, giving speeches around the world, and serving on corporate boards.
As the Bee noted, former Gov. Jerry Brown refused to release any of his tax returns during his most recent stint as governor. Did Weiner lack confidence that Brown was not working for the people of California and only to enrich himself? Probably not.
Brown also vetoed a prior version of this bill two years ago. He wrote in his veto message that this effort would “start down a road that well might lead to an ever escalating set of differing state requirements for presidential candidates.”
It also has no bearing on who the GOP will pick as their presidential standard bearer. The Republican Party could cancel the presidential primary and pick convention delegates by caucus instead. Also, Trump will appear on California’s general election ballot as the Republican Party nominee, regardless of whether he discloses his tax returns.
At the end of the day, it’s up to voters to decide if a candidate’s finances are disqualifying.
Every voter has their own individual checklist when deciding on a presidential candidate. Some may be interested in their position on taxes, while others are interested in where they stand on foreign policy. And yes, some may be interested in reviewing a candidate’s tax returns.
California voters can weigh the facts and decide for themselves. They certainly don’t need meddlesome state lawmakers getting in the way when choosing America’s next president.
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.