Legislation Would Require Disclosure in Order to be Placed on NJ Ballot
The General Assembly on Thursday granted final legislative approval to a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Troy Singleton, Paul Moriarty, Annette Quijano and Gordon Johnson to restore the tradition of transparency typically honored by presidential candidates by requiring any future presidential and vice presidential candidates to submit their tax returns to the State Division of Elections in order to run on New Jersey’s ballot.
“Donald Trump has eschewed at least 40 years of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, raising an untold number of questions and possible ethical dilemmas,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “Making the returns public would clear up any questions about whether a candidate is indebted to any foreign states or accepting any emoluments from them. This is an issue of national security as well as transparency. If Congress is unwilling to address this, hopefully other states will follow our lead.”
“Beyond simply the issue of transparency, there are many reasons why a presidential or vice presidential candidate should release their tax returns, reasons that can hold grave consequences for our nation,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Voters deserve to be armed with the whole truth before they make such a weighty decision. Since the Republican leadership in Congress is unwilling to do anything about it, we will take matters into our own hands in New Jersey.”
Under the bill (S-3048/A-4520), in order for a candidate for President or Vice-President of the United States to have their names printed on New Jersey’s ballot, they must submit their federal income tax returns to the State Division of Elections for at least the five most recent taxable years for which the candidate has filed such a return with the Internal Revenue Service.
“Nearly every day it seems new ethical questions are raised over the business dealings of the President and his family,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “At this point there’s no way of knowing if the President is operating above the law because there is no way to discern if any of his business dealings violate constitutional or ethical clauses. This is unacceptable and should not be allowed to happen again.”
Under the bill, each candidate would also submit written consent to the division for the public disclosure of the income tax returns. The income tax returns and the written consent for disclosure must be filed with the division no later than 50 days before the general election.
“Every day we see more questions arise over potential conflicts of interest with the Trump administration – questions we have little way of answering without knowledge of his tax returns,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Voters deserve to know whether a candidate for the highest office in our country has financial entanglements that might influence their judgment on foreign policy, in particular.”
“Without a full picture of someone’s vested financial interests, it’s nearly impossible to tell if political or policy decisions are being made with the intention of currying favor with a foreign government or agency where the president might have financial ties,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “This is the main reason presidential candidates for the last 40 years have been forthright with their tax returns.”
The division would then post the income tax returns on its website no later than seven days after the candidate has filed the income tax returns with the division. The bill requires the division, in consultation with the Attorney General, to redact any information contained in the income tax returns that the division deems necessary before the division posts the income tax returns on its website.
The bill also specifies that electors cannot cast their electoral college vote for candidates who have not disclosed their tax return information.
The legislation was approved by a vote of 49-25 and now heads to the governor’s desk.