- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008


Barack Obama released his 2006 tax returns nearly a year ago. (We even know how much he tithed.) Both John McCain and Hillary Clinton have pledged to release theirs shortly. But to date, neither has done so. Mrs. Clinton has had the gall to claim that she is “too busy” to disclose hers even though she found the time to lend her own campaign $5 million. What has taken them so long? Why did they think it either necessary or desirable to avoid divulging information that they know voters need and want this primary season?

The American people have come to expect a high standard of transparency when it comes to presidential tax disclosures. Aspirants to the Oval Office knew these questions were coming. Going above the legal requirements establishes trust, assures voters of a candidate’s propriety and also illustrates sound judgment. In short, it helps voters assess vital aspects of a candidate’s personal and political judgment. Of the trust, propriety and conflict questions, which, if any, pose problems for Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton?

Look to the parallels with John Kerry in 2003-04 for some answers. In late 2003, Mr. Kerry disclosed his own tax returns but refused to share his wife’s even though Teresa Heinz Kerry’s fortune was inseparable from her husband’s own finances and his pursuit of the presidency. Mr. McCain, the ninth-wealthiest senator, has not self-financed similarly. But he, too, is married to an heiress who chairs the nation’s third-largest Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship. Her holdings are no doubt both extensive and inseparable from Mr. McCain’s own personal and political fortunes.

Mrs. Clinton’s are more precarious and murkier. The Senate’s 21st-wealthiest member has pledged to release her taxes by April 15, a week before the Pennsylvania primary. Husband Bill Clinton has been quite busy since leaving the White House. His myriad interests may pose any number of problems for Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy.

The same is perhaps even truer of Mr. Clinton’s presidential foundation, which, thus far, is not subject to a disclosure standard even remotely sufficient given what is at stake. The New York Times reported donations in the hundreds of millions of dollars to Mr. Clinton’s foundation from a Canadian mining magnate with interests in Kazakh uranium. Mr. Clinton accompanied mining financier Frank Guistra to Kazakhstan in 2005, contradicting his wife’s position on a potential Kazakh presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. About that 3 A.M. phone call: There can be very legitimate questions for Mrs. Clinton on Kazakh uranium.

Tax disclosure is good presidential politics, plain and simple. We now know, for example, that Barack and Michelle declared income of $983,826 in 2006 — and $22,500 went to Trinity United Church of Christ. What do we know about the Clintons and the McCains? Neither couple has done the proper thing. Both need to disclose.

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