Exclusive: Ballot Effort to Unveil Trump Taxes to Debut at Mass Dem Convention…
The investigation into Russian interference with the United States presidential election last year picked up speed after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed a special counsel. Nonetheless, “Russiagate” has contaminated an increasing number of Donald Trump’s confidantes. The extent of his own relationship with Russia remains somewhat difficult to divine after he broke decades of precedent and refused to release his tax returns.
However, an effort in Massachusetts may touch off a national push to force Trump’s hand. Organizers are preparing a ballot question that would prohibit the Secretary of State from placing any presidential candidate onto the primary or general election ballots who has not disclosed their taxes. If successful, the campaign could be replicated elsewhere. To run in key states in 2020, the president would have to disclose his taxes and sources of income.
A source intimately involved with the ballot campaign discussed the effort with WMassP&I before its unveiling on the condition of anonymity.
The referendum will be formally announced during the Massachusetts Democratic convention this weekend in Worcester. Though starting in Massachusetts, organizers are hoping to export it to other states. Supporters have already begun seeking legal advice on the ballot question process in other key states, included those Trump carried last year.
Several battleground states allow legislative ballot initiatives. Michigan and Ohio do. Both flipped from President Barack Obama to Trump in 2016. But a big prize could be Florida, another Obama-Trump state. The Sunshine State constitution does not allow regular legislation via voter initiative. However, Floridians can petition to have constitutional amendments put before voters.
The US Constitution is largely silent on how states apportion their electoral college members in the presidential contest. States largely have a free hand in this area. This rule would apply to all presidential candidates equally. Thus it should have a good shot if it goes to court.
The source said the campaign is looking at language requiring between seven to ten years of tax. The lower end is probably more likely to limit legal challenges.
Were states to pass such ballot questions before the 2020 race for the White House, Trump’s name could not appear on the ballot in those jurisdiction unless he disclosed his returns for the minimum number of years required. The language could cover Vice-presidential candidates to avoid any chicanery that might allow a running mate to slip by.
If successful, it might even spread to states without ballot questions.
Organizers are starting early to meet deadlines in Massachusetts and other states, but also to avoid redundancy. A centralized effort, the source notes, could ensure it can harness the growing energy in opposition to Trump.
Sources say Jim Fleming, a political consultant and pollster from West Springfield, is spearheading the endeavor. Taking such a public role is a switch for Fleming, who usually stays behind the scenes collecting data and signatures for candidates and causes. But it is the kind of fight that former State Democratic Committee member and campaign veteran revels in.
A ballot committee filed with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance on May 10 with the purpose of requiring the disclosure of pols’ taxes. However, the ambitions of Fleming’s effort go well beyond Massachusetts.
The organizers’ website, which is not yet public but was previewed by WMassP&I, is set up to expand nationwide. Activists will be able enter their zip code, which will direct them to available action in their state. Only Massachusetts residents will see an active question, but that will quickly change as efforts pick up in other states.
Residents in the 26 states without citizen-initiated propositions can still donate and use the connect to friends and family in states will ballot questions.
If it does spread beyond Massachusetts, Trump may have little choice to reveal his taxes before he seeks reelection. But sources note the added transparency is bigger than the incumbent president. Although a norm for forty years, presidential candidates’ disclosure of taxes is not law. In effect, the campaign would merely codify what had become the custom until the 2016 election.