How might we require Presidential candidates to make their tax returns public?
I’ve got an idea that may be constitutional. And it involves NO federal action, just state by state legislation. Read on for details …
The key here is ballot access. If a candidate can’t get on a ballot without disclosure, that candidate can’t get any electoral votes from that state.
And it’s up to each state to decide what is necessary for a candidate to “qualify” for their ballots!
Most states require some combination of signatures and fees. A few states (I think) also require submission of proof of citizenship. Some state relax these requirements in general elections, automatically allowing nominees of qualified parties access to the ballot.
Is there anything that has already been tested in court that would prevent a state from adding a tax disclosure requirement?
Can you imagine a major party candidate not disclosing if it would mean not appearing on the ballot in California, New York, Texas, and Florida?
I can anticipate an “Equal Protection” argument building in the minds of some who might not agree with this. How might that be countered?
One counter to an equal protection argument might be to require it of all candidates – at any level – who want to run for office within the state: “We’re not singling out the President. We feel ALL candidates must disclose their tax returns so that we can be aware of potential conflicts of interest.” Something analogous could also be required to get an initiative or recall qualified for the ballot – such as requiring the returns (business or individual) of the top three funders of the ballot measure to disclose their business returns
I also realize that this may be politically difficult in many areas, but if enough states adopt it, we’ll accomplish de facto national disclosure.