Upfront: Returns of the nativist

Huffman calls out the Cheeto Jesus on his tax-release dodge

By Tom Gogola

As anyone who has been following this year’s presidential race knows, there are two main candidates for the office and one of them has refused to release his federal tax records—despite a decades-long tradition of presidential candidates’ releasing the information so that voters might, you know, make an informed decision about who to vote for.

That candidate is known in some quarters as the Cheeto Jesus, and at last reckoning, he has still refused to release his recent federal IRS tax records. Donald Trump has claimed that people don’t care, that releasing them would open the door to questions best left unasked and that he’s not allowed to release his tax returns because he’s under audit by the IRS, a position that some have referred to as “a lie.”

And U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman has just called him out on it.

Last week the Marin County Congressman introduced a bill designed to close the so-called “liar’s loophole” whereby candidates can lie about whether they are being audited in order to lie about why they are not releasing their returns.

Under current law, the IRS isn’t allowed to tell the public whether a presidential candidate, or anyone else for that matter, is being audited—but that restriction does not restrain a candidate from making news of one’s audit a matter of the public record, as mega-billions liberal Warren Buffett recently and quite humorously noted during a post-convention appearance with Hillary Clinton.

Buffett is himself under audit and gave a presentation to Clinton supporters where he dismissed Trump’s malarkey claim that he was forbidden to release his returns: An audit does not restrict a candidate’s ability to release tax returns for the years that are being investigated by the IRS, despite Trump’s claims (lies) to the contrary.

In a statement, Huffman rightly notes that citizens have a right to evaluate candidates’ tax history, if for no other reason than to be “fully informed about the candidate’s financial ties.” He goes on to note that “the current system allows candidates to provide what could be a trumped-up excuse for hiding their returns by claiming a pending IRS audit, whether or not that is actually happening.”

Huffman’s bill would end the liar’s loophole by “requiring the IRS to disclose whether a presidential candidate is subject to any pending tax audits. The stakes of a presidential election are too high to allow a candidate to hide from disclosing their tax returns by giving an excuse that cannot even be verified under current law.”

The bill has a whole pile of Democratic co-sponsors, including St. Helena U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson—but nary a Republican sponsor is to be found on the liar’s loophole reform measure.

What’s their excuse? Unclear. But just admit that the line in Huffman’s statement about a “trumped-up excuse” is kind of funny—under increasingly unfunny election-season circumstances where Trump is gaining ground in Ohio and Florida, where his supporters are beating up the feisty elder ladies of North Carolina, and where bewildered and intimidated media apologists give him a rolling pass on his refusal to release his taxes. Hillary Clinton, for the record, has released her IRS returns.

NEWS BRIEFS

Wine country thief

Napa state one-term Assemblyman Bill Dodd announced last week that Governor Jerry Brown had signed a bill of his designed to expedite the “resolution process for victims of identity theft who find themselves in debt collection.”

That sounds like a terrible fate for anyone, and the 4th Assembly District’s Dodd notes that he has himself been a victim of identity theft and thereby knows first-hand that current law around identity theft is inadequate: It doesn’t require that debt collectors work within a specified timeframe when investigating claims of identity theft, “or notify a consumer of the results of that investigation,” according to a statement from his office.

Dodd’s bill got the thumbs-up from Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, who noted in a statement of her own that an individual’s credit rating is often where the consequences of laggard investigations into identity theft play out. “Consumers can spend months trying to navigate through a confusing and overwhelming system to remove the negative reporting,” Ravitch says. “Any legislation that provides a more expedient resolution for cases of identity theft is a positive step for consumer protection.”

Dodd is a one-term Assemblyman and a former longstanding Republican supervisor in Napa County who isn’t just a victim of identity theft, he’s stolen one for himself! The shape-shifting pol, a social liberal and pro-biz conservative jumped the GOP ship for the Democratic Party in 2012 in advance of his first run for the State Assembly. Now he’s running for State Senate in the 3rd District, the seat vacated by the termed-out Democrat Lois Wolk.

Dodd is hosting a Fraud Prevention Town Hall today (Sept. 21) at the Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma, 10am-noon. “Please join me and learn from the experts how best to protect your money and property,” he says in a statement.—T.G.

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