Donald Trump bucks decades-long tradition, refuses to release tax returns before election

Tax returns dogged the campaign of the last multi-millionaire to run on the Republican ticket. Trump doesn't care

By Sophia Tesfaye
May 11, 2016 5:22PM (UTC)
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Mitt Romney, Donald Trump (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/AP/LM Otero/Photo montage by Salon)

"There's nothing to learn from them," newly-minted presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said of his tax returns one week after securing his position as the de-facto leader of the party.

Announcing in an interview with the Associated Press that he enlisted the aid of CNBC conservative commentator Larry Kudlow and perennially incorrect Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore, the businessman who claims to be worth billions admitted that he has no plans to release his tax returns before the general election in November -- bucking decades of bipartisan tradition.


According to Joseph Thorndike, Director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts, presidential candidates from both parties have been releasing their tax returns consistently starting in the early 1970s, after President Nixon sparked the tradition when as the then running mate for Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, he challenged his Democratic rivals, Adlai Stevenson and running mate Sen. John Sparkman, to release their tax returns.


In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney stumbled over the issue of tax returns, waiting until post-convention to finally relent and then releasing only two years worth of returns.


Trump cited an ongoing audit of his finances as the main reason for withholding the information, adding that he also doesn't believe voters are interested. Of course, Trump's entire appeal to voters is based solely on the fact that he is a successful, supposedly billionaire businessman. While he's already dismissed his multiple business bankruptcies and low tax rates as simply the workings of an adroit businessman, without releasing his tax returns, the foundation of his candidacy, his wealth, can never be fact-checked.

And Trump's refusal to release his tax returns, again, a decades-long bipartisan tradition (minus Romney), is, surprise, a sudden reversal from Trump own position only days ago.

"I'll do it as fast as the auditors finish," Trump said of his tax returns this past Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," insisting that they will "show I’m worth more than $10 billion by any stretch of the imagination.”

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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