President Donald Trump sued California on Tuesday in an attempt to declare the state’s Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act unconstitutional. The law, which was signed into effect last month, requires presidential candidates to disclose their previous 5 years of income taxes if they want to be included on a California primary ballot.
“The United States Constitution grants states the authority to determine how their electors are chosen, and California is well within its constitutional right to include this requirement,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement.
Trump’s lawsuit, as well as another suit filed by the Republican National Committee and Republican Party of California, alleges that this law is a means of disenfranchising Trump supporters. The suit also claims that the law violates the First Amendment, as it is being used to “retaliate against an individual for his or her political associations or speech.”
“The Democratic Party is on a crusade to obtain the President’s federal tax returns in the hopes of finding something they can use to harm him politically,” reads the suit. “In their rush to join this crusade, California Democrats have run afoul of these restrictions on State power over federal elections.”
In a public response to Trump’s suit, Newson tweeted: “There’s an easy fix Mr. President — release your tax returns as you promised during the campaign and follow the precedent of every president since 1973.”
There’s an easy fix Mr. President — release your tax returns as you promised during the campaign and follow the precedent of every president since 1973. https://t.co/XodBK9ScqB
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) August 6, 2019
As for the constitutionality of the law itself, University of California, Irvine law professor Rick Hasen isn’t so sure.
“It is unclear whether state legislative power contained in Article II of the (US) Constitution gives California the power to take this step,” he told CNN. “If such a law is upheld as constitutional, we might see a race to the bottom whereby other states enact ballot access requirements, such as a requirement for candidates to produce a birth certificate, which could affect which candidates can run in which states.”
This quote is in line with Trump’s suit, which claims that the “the Supreme Court has indicated that restrictions on the right to run for public office must be carefully examined.”
Indeed, Hasen’s point feels like an important warning regarding the dangerous precedent set by allowing states to create their own ballot requirements.
Aside from the First Amendment arguments, the suit also argues that the Ethics in Government Act supersedes this new law and therefore renders it moot. There is no federal law that currently requires presidential candidates to disclose their tax information to appear on a ballot.
The Justice Department may reportedly take a position on whether Democrats can subpoena Trump’s tax returns from when he was a private citizen.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of California.
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.]