Democrats shouting the loudest about Mitt Romney’s reluctance to release his tax returns do not apply the same standards to themselves, according to a McClatchy News Service report.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the two Democratic leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives, are among hundreds of elected officials from both parties who refused to release their tax records, McClatchy reported.
Pelosi said Romney was unfit to serve as President or even in the Cabinet because of his refusal so far to release all of his returns and Reid said Romney wasn’t even fit to be dogcatcher.
But just 17 out of the 535 members of Congress released their most recent tax forms or provided some similar documentation of their tax liabilities in response to requests from McClatchy over the last three months, the news service reported, indicating a double standard.
Another 19 members flat out refused and the rest didn’t even bother to respond to McClatchy’s request.
Pelosi aides flat out said no, saying she’s disclosed all that Congress requires.
“The leader has filed a complete financial disclosure report as required by law that includes financial holdings, transactions and other personal information,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami told McClatchy.
The law, written by Congress, requires a broad financial-disclosure statement that offers no direct information on tax liabilities and no requirement for reporting spousal income other than the source – but not the amount – of any income above $1,000. There’s little way of knowing whether that spousal income is $1,001 or $1 million, McClatchy News noted.
“They just don’t provide the same level of detail as a tax return,” Darrell West of the Brookings Institution told McClatchy News.
“Senior public officials, especially members of Congress and presidential candidates, should be required to disclose their tax returns so that the public can monitor potential conflicts of interest,” Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a nonpartisan watchdog group, told McClatchy.
Members of Congress aren’t being fully transparent if they don’t divulge their tax information, said Daniel Auble, head of the personal finance project for the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks financial disclosures by members of Congress and appointees confirmed by Congress.
“Having a clearer picture of lawmakers’ interests . . . is definitely important in making available to the public what possible influence there could be,” Auble told McClatchy. “In terms of transparency, it would be helpful to have more information.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee and a co-author of the Dodd-Frank law tightening regulations on Wall Street, were among the more prominent Democrats who refused to disclose their tax returns to McClatchy.
And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee who has blasted Romney’s refusal to release more tax returns, also refused to disclose her returns, saying she wouldn’t because she wasn’t running for president.
Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York responded to McClatchy’s request by turning the table on the news organization: “First your publishers and editors and execs should publish their tax returns. They have great influence over public policy.”
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