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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 11, 2019 11:55 AM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams and Sen. Daylin Leach
To: All Senate members
Subject: Candidate Tax Return Transparency
In the near future, we will re-introduce legislation that will require all candidates for offices at the state and federal level to publicly disclose their tax returns public in order to be eligible to appear on the Pennsylvania ballot.

The 2016 presidential election was the first in decades in which a major party candidate for President refused to release his tax returns to the public. This violated a tradition dating back to 1968, when Governor George Romney released twelve years of tax records during his presidential campaign. The “new norm” trickled down to the 2018 PA gubernatorial election when a candidate with known significant business interests derived from local government contracts similarly refused to release his returns.

The need for this tradition is clear. Under current law, there is not a provision to provide an equal playing field in terms of transparency related to personal finances. Many Americans want to know whether candidates may have personal or business interests that could undermine their commitment to acting in the best interests of the people. More importantly, all Americans, whether they supported their President's election or not, must know whether their President has any financial interests that may affect their decision making – decisions of national security -- while serving as Commander-in-Chief.

Our legislation would require all candidates for state and federal office to submit their federal tax returns to the Secretary of the Commonwealth in order to appear on the general election ballot. The Secretary would then be required to post these filings, with appropriate redactions to protect privacy, on a public website within 90 days of the election.

Pennsylvania’s voters have a right to know if potential conflicts of interest exist due to a financial relationship between candidates and corporations, just as they have a right to view information on campaign contributions. We hope you will join us in co-sponsoring this important legislation.