New York Times op-ed: Don’t Use the Ballot to Get Trump’s Tax Returns, by Derek Muller (Pepperdine):
Opponents of Donald Trump were outraged when, flouting recent tradition, he refused to disclose his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign. They remain outraged that he continues to decline to do so as president.
Now that political outrage is being channeled into legislation. Lawmakers in at least two dozen states have introduced bills that would compel presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns or be left off the ballot in 2020. The New Jersey Legislature recently passed such a bill, which sits on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.
Mr. Christie should veto the bill, and other states should abandon their efforts. Making the disclosure of tax returns mandatory is bad policy and, in this form, probably unconstitutional.
It is rarely a good idea to try to resolve an ordinary political skirmish by making it a matter of statutory law. The political process is a flexible tool for addressing such issues case by case; a statute is a monolithic, one-size-fits-all solution. The tax disclosure issue is better served by the former. ...
[T]he bigger point here is not that the New Jersey bill (or that of any other state) is poorly written. The point is that statutes are rigid, indiscriminate things, often with unforeseen consequences, and the issue of tax disclosures by presidential candidates is a nuanced matter better sorted out through the political process. ...
It’s understandable that many state legislatures now want presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns: Mr. Trump’s refusal to disclose was, and continues to be, an issue of concern to many voters in New Jersey and across the country. But the ballot is not a form of leverage that may be used to pressure political candidates to meet legislative demands. This issue is best addressed, as it has long been, by the political process.