California Just Passed a Law That Could Force Trump to Release His Tax Returns

If the president doesn’t comply, he could be booted from the state’s primary ballot.

Stefani Reynolds/Zuma

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

President Donald Trump won’t show up on primary ballots in California unless he releases his tax returns, according to a state law enacted Tuesday.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill requiring all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings by late November in order to appear on the presidential primary ballot in March next year, the Los Angeles Times reported. The law only applies directly to the primary, and not to the November 2020 general election.

California is not the only state to have passed laws aimed at getting Trump to release his tax returns. Earlier this month, New York passed a law requiring the president—and other federal officials—to release state tax returns upon request from one of three congressional committees. California takes the practice a step further by essentially mandating the president to release his tax returns, or risk handing the state’s Republican primary votes to another candidate. (Since Trump isn’t likely to face a competitive Republican primary next year, he could get his party’s nomination without California’s delegates and still possibly appear on the state’s ballot in the general election next fall.)

Legal experts predict that the law, which applies to candidates of all political parties, will be challenged—but that it could inspire other blue states to enact similar legislation. If California’s law is upheld by the courts, it could cause unintended consequences. “Requiring presidential candidates to release their taxes as a condition of ballot access may not be constitutional,” Rick Hasen, a professor at UC Irvine School of Law, wrote for Politico two years ago. “And even if it is, the Democrats sponsoring such legislation run the risk of major retaliatory measures being taken in Republican states.”

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate