Paul L. Caron

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Hemel: Why California’s Plan To Get Trump’s Tax Returns Won’t Work

Washington Post op-ed:  Why California’s Plan to Get Trump’s Tax Returns Won’t Work, by Daniel Hemel (Chicago):

California’s governor signed a law this week requiringpresidential candidates to disclose their federal income tax returns as a condition for getting on the state’s primary ballot. It’s a bold and creative move aimed at forcing President Trump to release his tax filings — one that a handful of other blue states are considering.

It’s also highly unlikely to work as intended.

The obstacles to the law’s effectiveness are both legal and practical. Courts may well strike down the law on constitutional grounds. But even if the law passes constitutional muster (a big “if”), it lacks the teeth to make Trump comply.

So far, the constitutional question has drawn the most attention, with legal scholars weighing in on both sides of the debate.  ... A court considering the constitutionality of the California law will have to weigh the state’s interest in election integrity against Trump’s interest in appearing on the ballot, his California supporters’ interest in being able to vote for their preferred candidate and the Republican Party’s interest in deciding how its nominee is selected. How any given court will come down is anyone’s guess. ...

Under the California law, Republican primary voters could still vote for Trump as a write-in candidate — which would likely suffice to secure him a victory in the Golden State, given the lack of any serious GOP challenger. And even if Trump by some miracle lost the California primary, the Republican National Committee could set aside the results of that vote, on the grounds that it was tainted by the state’s tax-return requirement. That argument might help California convince a court that its law is constitutional, but it would require the state to concede that its law is ineffectual.

In short, whether it’s constitutional or not, the law won’t, as a practical matter, interfere with the Republican Party’s selection of its 2020 presidential nominee. That nominee — barring a truly unexpected event — will be Donald Trump, whether or not he abides by the new disclosure rule.

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