Democratic California Governor and one time presidential candidate Jerry Brown surprised his party colleagues by vetoing legislation that would have forced presidential candidates to make their tax returns public. Brown’s dismissal of the latest attempt to corner Trump if he decides to run again was a blow to those trying to uncover damaging information about the president.
Brown cautioned against setting a “slippery slope precedent.” He wrote in a memo, “While I recognize the political attractiveness – even the merits – of getting President Trump’s tax returns, I worry about the political perils of individual states seeking to regulate presidential elections in this manner.”
Brown continued, “First, it may not be constitutional. Second, it sets a ‘slippery slope’ precedent. Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?”
California was able to pass the measure in their Democratic-controlled legislature last month when other states were forced to stall their similar efforts. But there was an immediate question about the bill’s legality. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states cannot add to the qualifications for U.S. Senate or House members. And even the California legislative counsel cast some doubt on the constitutionality of the “presidential disclosure bill.”
Brown stated in his veto message that he hesitated “to start down a road that well might lead to an ever-escalating set of differing state requirements for presidential candidates.”
President Trump is the first in office in decades to take his position without releasing his tax returns. His failure to disclose drew significant criticism from Democrats and other advocates of open government. Governor Brown, a four-term Democrat, has also resisted disclosing personal tax information. He did not release his tax returns in his 2010 or 2014 campaigns.
The bill vetoed on the Governor’s desk would have required a presidential candidate to file copies of their five most recent tax returns before they could be placed on the state primary ballot. The state would then have made the returns public.
Do you agree or disagree with Governor Brown’s veto?