Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tax Return Mystery

McClatchy Article

During Hillary's Clinton's New York race for the Senate in 2000, a man in an Uncle Sam suit calling himself "Tax Man" followed Republican candidate Rick Lazio around, demanding to know why Lazio was so slow in making his income tax returns public.

"The people of New York have a right to know what he's hiding," said Howard Wolfson, then a top Clinton aide who often trailed behind "Tax Man" feeding reporters campaign spin. "Rick Lazio's 15 minutes are up — he should stop making excuses and come clean with New Yorkers."

Eight years later, Clinton and her presidential campaign aren't making her income tax returns public. She's promised to release her income tax information on or around April 15.

Wolfson, now the Clinton campaign's communications director, won't say why Clinton wouldn't release her tax information earlier. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, released his 2006 tax return _ though only his 2006 return _ last April.

Clinton isn't the only presidential candidate who hasn't made tax records public. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, hasn't either. His campaign says that he'll make his records public in the next month or so.

McCain has never made his tax returns public, but Clinton has. In 1994, under political pressure over the Whitewater land deal controversy, the Clintons made public all their tax returns since 1977. The couple also disclosed their tax returns during Bill Clinton's eight years in the White House, but not since.

The delays by Clinton and McCain perplex some government watchdog groups, which note that past presidential candidates had no trouble producing their tax returns in a timely fashion. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, released his tax information in December 2003, for example.

"This is a part of the public record that voters have come to expect.