Remember Last Year, When a Candidate’s Tax Returns Mattered?

by Jim Geraghty

Dear mainstream media, 

If you wanted to know why more and more Americans don’t think of you as something they read or watch, and increasingly think of you as something they step in, one big reason is the ludicrous double-standards you have for Republican and Democrat candidates.

In January 2012, Mitt Romney released his 2010 tax return; in September, he released his 2011 return after filing for an extension. 

For much of last year’s presidential campaign, the tax returns for the preceding and most recent year were treated as a huge pressing issue for the wealthy candidate. Romney’s tax returns warranted segments on CNN, segments on Meet the Press, the roundtable on ABC’s This Week, and the roundtable on PBS NewshourCNN and Gallup asked questions about it in their surveys. Obviously MSNBC hosts treated his tax returns as if they contained the location the Lost City of Atlantis in them. Obama surrogates and Romney surrogates were asked about it. Ann Romney was asked about it on NBC’s Rock Center. Romney was asked about it in interview after interview. The Obama campaign put out plenty of “what is he hiding?” ads. To ensure the low-information voters heard about it, The Daily Show and Funny or Die did segments on Romney’s delay in releasing his tax returns. 

The calls for Romney to release more of his tax returns became an all-out crusade, and deemed one of the major issues of the campaign. Because openness, financial transparency, and accountability are important in evaluating candidates for higher office, right?

This year, the Democrats’ candidate for Senate in New Jersey, Newark Mayor Cory Booker allowed their hand-picked reporters to look at his tax returns for three hours, with no copies or photographs:

Newark mayor Cory Booker, who hopes to be New Jersey’s next senator, claims to have “released” 15 years’ worth of his tax returns in what his campaign trumpeted as a “historic gesture of transparency.” Perhaps the mayor should consult T-Bone or another of his possibly imaginary felonious friends about the definition of “release.” The mayor’s tax returns remain locked up, though they were allowed a conjugal visit with the press: Nine reporters, all hand-picked by the Booker campaign, were permitted three hours with the documents in a hotel ballroom in Newark — no photographs, no copies, no removing documents from the room, resulting in what one of the reporters present described as a mad scramble to record information as the clock ticked to zero.

In Virginia, the Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe still hasn’t released any of his tax returns; choosing to release summaries of his financial information

Booker and McAuliffe are two wealthy guys, with lots of business ties to companies that have business before the Newark city government and Virginia state government. The possibility of conflict-of-interest or financial misdeeds is at least as great for these two as it was for Romney. 

And yet neither Booker nor McAuliffe have received even one-hundreth of the grief Romney received from their local or state press.

And we know why this is. The mainstream press cares about the tax returns and financial disclosures of Republican candidates and doesn’t care about the tax returns and financial disclosures of Democrat candidates, because Republicans are the bad guys and Democrats are the good guys.

If I’m wrong, prove me wrong, mainstream media.

 

The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.