Mike McGuire, the North Coast’s scrappy state Senate rep, must have known he was courting legal challenges when he introduced the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, which requires candidates for U.S. president and California governor to release their tax returns to be included on the state’s election ballot.
Sure enough, now that the bill has been signed into law, President Trump and the Republican National Committee are bringin’ the lawsuits. Today, one week after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the legislation, the Trump campaign and the RNC filed a pair of lawsuits in federal court challenging the law.
The Republican Party’s.suit, filed against Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla, describes the law as “a naked political attack against the sitting president of the United States.” The Trump campaign suit argues that the law violates the U.S. Constitution by adding a requirement to run for president.
Trump is the only major party presidential nominee in the past 40 years not to make his tax returns public, save Gerald Ford. Since being on the 2016 campaign trail, Trump has claimed that he can’t release his returns because he’s being audited by the IRS. However, there’s nothing in the law to prevent such a disclosure.
In a statement, McGuire noted that every president for the past four decades has had no problem releasing his tax returns.
“It comes as no surprise that President Trump would freak out at the prospect of presidential transparency and accountability, but he will need to get used to it,” McGuire said, adding, “Welcome to the rule of law, Mr. President.”
The governor weighed in via Twitter:
There’s an easy fix Mr. President — release your tax returns as you promised during the campaign and follow the precedent of every president since 1973. https://t.co/XodBK9ScqB— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) August 6, 2019
One was filed Monday on behalf of a handful of state voters by the conservative-leaning group Judicial Watch. The other was filed last week by Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, a California businessman who has run several low-profile campaigns for president.
The chair of the California Republican Party, Jessica Millan Patterson, has also gotten in on the lawsuit party, challenging the legislation in the state Supreme Court with an argument that the California Constitution requires elections officials to include on the ballot any presidential candidate who meets the national criteria.
The California State Legislature passed a similar measure two years ago, but then-Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it over concerns about its constitutionality.
Upon signing McGuire’s legislation, Newsom defended the constitutionality of the measure, saying the highest law in the land gives states the authority to determine how their electors are chosen.
“These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence,” Newsom said at the time. “The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”
Legal scholars have offered mixed opinions about whether the law is constitutional, the L.A. Times reports. With the state’s presidential primary election less than seven months away, UC Irvine election law Professor Richard L. Hasen tells the paper that the best that plaintiffs could hope forthis election cycle is a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the law from taking effect this year.
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