What Clinton once said about tax returns

A look at Hillary Clinton's position on the delayed release of tax returns by her first opponent for the Senate provides a contrast with her stance now.

Published March 6, 2008 11:48PM (EST)

Barack Obama's campaign has been pressing Hillary Clinton hard recently on the issue of her tax returns and why she has yet to release them. Currently, her campaign says she'll release them around April 15, before the Pennsylvania primary, a change to its previous position that the returns would not be made public until she was the nominee. But as a Newsday reporter reminded readers on Thursday, Clinton and her 2000 senatorial campaign staff -- including at least one aide who's in a senior position on the Clinton presidential team now -- weren't exactly cavalier when it came to the foot-dragging her opponent back then was doing.

In 2000, Clinton was still first lady, and vying for an open Senate seat in New York with then Rep. Rick Lazio. Lazio entered the race in May 2000, and was almost immediately pressured to release his tax returns by the press and by the Clinton campaign. Nor was the Clinton camp placated by Lazio's promise that he would do so by the end of that summer. Instead, a man in an Uncle Sam suit dubbed "Tax Man" followed Lazio to campaign events, and Howard Wolfson -- now the communications director of Clinton's presidential campaign -- showed up at a Lazio stop in Harlem to present Lazio with Clinton's property tax bill, ask, "If he says he can release them in 15 minutes, why doesn't he?" and comment, "The people of New York have a right to know what he's hiding. Rick Lazio's 15 minutes are up -- he should stop making excuses and come clean with New Yorkers."

Clinton herself also criticized Lazio; on at least two occasions during the campaign she called his delay "frankly disturbing."

Lazio eventually allowed reporters to examine his returns in late August, three months after he first promised to do so.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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