Wisconsin State Journal, April 9
Show us your tax returns, Mr. President
Dear President Donald Trump,
Letting the public see your recent tax returns would be not only in the best interest of the country, but also is in your own interest. With millions of us filing our own tax returns this month, there is no better time for release of your returns than now.
We understand you want to allow an audit by the Internal Revenue Service to be completed before you release your tax information. Your business sense - probably along with your attorneys and accountants - is telling you to avoid subjecting your tax information to double-jeopardy scrutiny by the public and IRS.
But you are no longer primarily Donald Trump, business executive. You are Donald Trump, president of the United States. You remain the only president to withhold his tax returns from public review since Richard Nixon opened his returns in 1973. Furthermore, other presidents have made their tax returns public despite undergoing annual audits required of all presidents while in office.
It is important for us, as a nation, to have your tax information so we can evaluate what - if any - business relationships you may have had that pose potential conflicts of interest, especially connections with Russia, accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election. We also deserve to know what sorts of tax breaks you have received so that we can better evaluate the tax reform legislation you are developing and what - if any - personal gain or loss you might suffer from that reform.
It is important for you to reveal your tax information because a president needs the public’s confidence and support. Because of serious questions about your associates’ links to Russian businesses and to Russian officials as well as concerns about your personal stake in tax reform, you are facing skepticism that threatens your ability to get things done. You lost your first attempt to repeal ObamaCare. Your tax reform is already under attack. Your public approval ratings are low. A contributing factor is the cloud of suspicion around you from continuing to withhold your tax information.
We have your 2005 tax return, leaked to a reporter. There were no red flags. But your 2005 return, perhaps deliberately leaked for a political purpose, is not enough to put concerns to rest.
We need more recent returns to properly answer our questions. You do not need to reveal your entire return. Your 1040 form will offer access to your sources of income to help us discover any suspicious business relationships. Your Schedule A will show us your itemized deductions so we can understand which tax breaks affect you personally.
Your opponents are sure to use information from your returns for political grandstanding. But most of us are capable of sifting through the partisan sensationalism to find the issues of national interest.
Release your returns, Mr. President.
The Journal Times of Racine, April 8
On Russia probe, Nunes needed to step down
Our system of checks and balances ensures that no one of the three branches of the federal government becomes too powerful: Congress controls the president’s budget, the president determines appointments to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. It is somewhat adversarial, and we would argue that it needs to be: We want, for example, the legislative branch to keep the executive branch in check.
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has a curious interpretation of this concept.
It was Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of then-President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, who took a middle-of-the-night trip to the White House before briefing Trump on the status of his committee’s investigation into … members of Trump’s presidential campaign and transition team, some of whom now work in the White House, regarding the Trump campaign’s contact with Russian officials.
Checks and balances? This is equivalent to the district attorney on “Law and Order” going over to the suspect’s house and saying “Here is all the evidence we have against you, and here is the strategy I’m going to use at trial.”
As reported by The New York Times, a pair of White House officials helped provide Nunes with the intelligence reports that showed that the president and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies. After dark on March 21, the Times reported, Nunes got a call from a person he has described only as a source. The call came as he was riding across town in an Uber car, and he quickly diverted to the White House. The next day, Nunes gave a hastily arranged news conference before going to brief the president on what he had learned the night before from - as it turns out - White House officials.
Among the people Nunes did not brief before briefing the president? U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. When you rush to tell the president before you tell your committee’s ranking member of the opposition party - and you repeatedly dismiss the idea that you were wrong to disclose the existence of “dozens” of classified intelligence reports about incidental surveillance of associates of Trump - you make it far too easy for others to paint your investigation as nakedly partisan, that you are eager to do the bidding of the occupant of the Oval Office, the one at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Nunes stepped down as head of the Trump campaign-Russia investigation on Thursday. He blamed “left-wing activist groups” for complaints lodged against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics, but that kind of finger-pointing falls flat when you say it less than a half-hour before the House Committee on Ethics says you’re under investigation for possibly having “made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”
It is vital that the American people know what role, if any, the Russian government or its agents played in the presidential election, and if any members of the Trump campaign conspired with them. Not because we dispute the outcome of the Nov. 8 election - Donald Trump won the election fairly, and we have seen nothing to suggest otherwise - but because we don’t want foreign nations intruding in our elections, and we want to know if American citizens, especially Americans presently working in the White House, took part in that intrusion.
This is not a partisan issue. This is an American issue. We need an independent, nonpartisan investigation by the House of Representatives. Congressman Nunes’ actions left us doubting his ability to lead an independent, nonpartisan investigation, and that meant he needed to step aside.
Green Bay Press-Gazette, April 8
Law erodes environmental oversight
The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that relaxes regulations on high-capacity wells.
Proponents of the bill include mainly agri-business industry, such as the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association and the Dairy Business Association, with conservationists and waterfront property owners opposed.
The bill would exempt current high-capacity wells from oversight for well repairs or maintenance, construction of a replacement well, reconstruction of a well and transfer of ownership.
This comes after state Attorney General Brad Schimel concluded that the state Department of Natural Resources didn’t have the authority to consider the downstream effects of high-capacity wells when approving permits.
The Senate sent the law to the Assembly on a 19-13 vote - Sens. Rob Cowles, R-Allouez, voted for it; Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, against it; Frank Lasee, R-Ledgeview, didn’t vote.
What’s most troubling is the neutering of the state’s regulatory agencies. It’s a trend we’re seeing at the federal level as well. In this case, the DNR’s oversight of these wells has been watered down.
Many of these environmental regulations targeted for elimination, both from the federal and state levels, are there for a reason - to ensure that an entity doesn’t contaminate or degrade a natural resource so that it can’t be used by others.
We have a rich history of that - look at the dumping of PCBs into the Fox River. The city of Waukesha wants to get its drinking water from Lake Michigan after overpumping of groundwater led to radium contamination in its wells.
We’ve needed regulations to save us from ourselves, at times.
With water, we’re talking about a resource essential to life. The needs of the many can’t be sacrificed for the gains of the few.
Not only is clean drinking water necessary, but surface and navigable waters are key to our state’s tourism economy.
Drained rivers and lakes would have a disastrous impact on tourism. People who come here to hunt, fish and recreate would have to find a new playground. The economic impact would hurt those communities that rely on those visitors.
The Central Sands region is really feeling the impact. It’s a 1.75 million acre region in central Wisconsin that’s home to potato and vegetable farming as well as 800 miles of trout streams and 300 lakes.
The increase in the number of high-capacity wells, which can pump more than 100,000 gallons of water per day, has exploded in the last 30 years. From 2000 to 2015, they have increased statewide by 54 percent, to 10,456, according to the DNR.
It’s not just the Central Sands region, either, that has seen that rise. Concentrated animal feeding operations also use high-capacity wells, and their numbers have increased greatly in northeastern Wisconsin.
With no DNR oversight of usage by established wells, they could be used, well, forever.
The Assembly still has to act on the bill. To be clear, the law doesn’t apply to new wells and it establishes a “designated study area” of the Central Sands region to evaluate the hydrology and possibly alter permit requirements.
We believe the state’s groundwater needs to be vigorously protected. Its protection and its use for agricultural and industry must be balanced. However, we don’t believe that relaxing these regulations is the answer, and we shouldn’t swing from too much government oversight to too little.
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