Lawmakers Across The Country Push For Trump's Tax Returns
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Tomorrow is tax day, and many Democrats are fixated on one person's tax returns - President Trump's. Trump has made clear that he does not plan to release his returns, so dozens of lawmakers at the state and local level have introduced bills aimed at forcing him to do it anyway. NPR's Joel Rose reports.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Even the New York City Council has a plan to make President Trump release his tax returns.
COREY JOHNSON: You're making money off the city. The city should know how you're making your money.
ROSE: Corey Johnson represents parts of Manhattan. He's planning to introduce a bill that would require anyone who signs a concession contract with the city and then puts their own name on the business to disclose their personal income taxes. That describes exactly one business in New York City, Trump's golf course in the Bronx.
JOHNSON: Right now Donald Trump's the only person that this would affect.
ROSE: Trump is the first president in 40 years not to release any of his tax returns during the campaign. Now lawmakers in dozens of states have introduced bills that would force him to do so. Several of these bills go by the name Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public, or TRUMP Act. Democratic Representative Kathleen Clyde introduced a version in Ohio.
KATHLEEN CLYDE: It's a pretty uphill battle, but I'll continue to fight it because I think that most Ohioans and most Americans support that information being made public.
ROSE: Nearly three quarters of Americans, according to one poll. But Clyde's bill was pretty much dead on arrival in Ohio's Republican-dominated legislature. Similar bills stand a better chance in state capitols that are controlled by Democrats. California State Senator Mark McGuire (ph) introduced a bill that would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the ballot in 2020.
MIKE MCGUIRE: Income tax returns provide voters with essential information regarding potential conflicts of interest.
ROSE: But even if these bills can survive the political obstacles, it's not clear how they would hold up in court.
VIKRAM AMAR: It's hard to predict because the Supreme Court hasn't really weighed in that often on what states can do to regulate presidential elections.
ROSE: Vikram Amar is dean of the University of Illinois College of Law. What is clear, he says, is that the Constitution prohibits laws that single out a person or group for punishment.
AMAR: You shouldn't have a rule for Trump only. You know, the Republic is going to be around a lot longer than any one president, and we ought to keep that in mind.
ROSE: Trump said during the campaign that he wouldn't release his tax returns because they're under audit. As president, his federal returns are audited automatically by law. Although that hasn't stopped past presidents from releasing theirs. One tax scholar thinks there might be an easier way to find out more about Trump's finances through his state tax returns.
DANIEL HEMEL: Those returns don't show everything that appears on his federal returns, but they show a lot of the same information.
ROSE: Daniel Hemel teaches law at the University of Chicago. He says New York could change its law to release the state tax returns of a sitting president.
HEMEL: So we'll be able to see what he reports as income, whether he's as rich as he claims to be, whether he's as charitable as he claims to be. And most importantly, we'll see what he's paying the state of New York.
ROSE: That would tell us how any tax reform plan the White House proposes might affect the taxpayer in chief. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.
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