NJ Bill Would Ban Trump From 2020 Ballot Unless He Releases Tax Returns

A bill introduced by New Jersey Democrats would keep President Trump's name off the state's 2020 ballot unless he releases his tax returns, according to NorthJersey.com.

The new legislation, approved Thursday by the state Senate, was passed once before in 2017 only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Christie. It would keep any candidate from appearing on the state ballot unless they make their tax returns public. Of note, New Jersey's current governor, Phil Murphy, is a Democrat. 

Similar legislation has been introduced in at least 28 states but has never been enacted, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, meaning New Jersey would be the first to impose such a disclosure requirement if its measure is also approved by the Assembly and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat. -NorthJersey.com

New Jersey's bill comes in response to President Trump's longstanding refusal to release his tax returns - which he says he would gladly do if he weren't under an ongoing IRS audit. The president's decision not to disclose information about his personal finances has sparked a heated debate over whether such a bill is even constitutional. 

"It is so obvious with this president that had voters known some of what seem to be his business interests, he may not have been elected president," said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D), a sponsor of the bill. 

The measure would likely be struck down in the courts, according to NorthJersey, and could also lead to more disclosures from candidates in the future. 

"Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?" wrote former California Gov. Jerry Brown when he vetoed similar legislation in 2017. "Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?" 

"“It’s just political pandering," said attorney John Carbone, who specializes in election law at Carbone & Fasse. 

"They can impose no requirements for a candidate for federal office, let alone president," he said. "They’re thinking like Alabama Democrats during the Civil War: What can we do to get Lincoln?"

Although they are not required to do so by law, presidential candidates in the past have released their tax returns as a matter of transparency so voters could learn about their financial status, business dealings and potential conflicts of interest.

Democrats who now control the U.S. House of Representatives are reportedly studying a century-old provision in the federal tax code to gain access to Trump’s tax returns and make them public. Separately, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, has introduced legislation to require presidents and presidential candidates to release their 10 most recent federal income tax returns.

The Democrats who control New Jersey’s Legislature are eyeing a different mechanism to force the disclosure, threatening to keep off the New Jersey ballot any candidate who does not share his or her five most recent tax returns at least 50 days before the 2020 general election. -NorthJersey.com

Of course, no Republican presidential candidate has won New Jersey since 1988, so the impact to President Trump, should this law pass, would likely be minimal. 

In March of 2017, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow embarrassed herself and her network when she published leaked partial copies of Trump's 2005 tax returns - revealing that Trump paid a higher tax rate than Mitt Romney in 2011 and Bernie Sanders in 2014, along with Barack Obama at 18.7% in 2015 and Warren Buffet at 17.4%

Maddow's "bombshell" drew widespread mockery, as her "hit piece" failed to achieve its desired effect.