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Law requiring candidates to release tax returns is necessary

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

A proposed law requiring candidates for congressional offices in Kentucky to release their tax returns is another logical step to promoting full transparency in government.

The law was proposed by former House Speaker Jeff Hoover, who was quoted by the Louisville Courier Journal saying, “Voters deserve to know where a candidate’s sources of income are, what business dealings that he or she may have and draw their own conclusions to who they have allegiances to.”

The proposed bill would require candidates for constitutional office to provide at least their last three years of returns.

Sharing this information with voters provides insight not just into a candidate’s income, but potential conflicts of interest, including investments — all things elected officials should be willing to be open and transparent about.

The decision not to be transparent about their income and their possible conflicts of interest raises a question: What do they have to hide?

Releasing tax returns has been a long-held bipartisan tradition in Kentucky. However, recent candidates and elected officials have opted not to release the information, citing privacy and other concerns.

After being elected in 2015 — and initially pledging to release his return information — Gov. Matt Bevin declined to release his tax returns.

Most recently Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Gill Holland, a Louisville developer, declined to release his tax returns.

At the national level, President Donald Trump has also declined to release his personal tax return information.

If instances of candidates and elected officials refusing to be transparent are going to become more common, then a law requiring transparency is necessary.

It’s no secret that money speaks, especially in politics. Voters have a right to know not only about the candidates they are voting for, but about who they are working for and where their loyalties stand.

Being able to access this information is not about an invasion of privacy, it’s about public trust. Elected officials should expect to be held to a higher standard of transparency.