Which Democratic Presidential Candidates Have Released Their Tax Returns?

It’s fewer than you might think.

Mother Jones illustration

Ever since President Richard Nixon submitted to a public tax audit in 1973, every presidential candidate has offered some view into their tax records—every candidate, that is, except Donald Trump. The president has famously refused to participate in that precedent since he faced off against Hillary Clinton in 2016 (who, despite her reputation for secrecy, had made three decades’ worth of tax documents public). As the Trump administration continues to find itself mired in conflicts of interest, Trump’s opponents have demanded he share his returns. But the president has repeatedly claimed he can’t because he’s being audited by the IRS (a procedure that the agency performs on every president and vice president and that has never posed a barrier to past candidates). His attorneys have leaned on that defense even as House Democrats requested the president’s personal and business tax records earlier this month.

For Democrats running for president, releasing their tax history signals a regard for openness and accountability in a way that Trump’s obfuscation surely has not. And the current federal lawmakers have extra incentive for sharing their returns: All of them have co-sponsored their chambers’ respective versions of sweeping reform legislation that would require presidential candidates to share 10 years’ worth of personal and business returns.

And yet, despite these grand gestures in the spirit of transparency, many of the 2020 hopefuls have been slow share their taxes with the voting public. While some candidates have divulged snapshots of their taxes during previous runs for lower office, only nine candidates have made any additional returns public since they hit the 2020 trail—and only four shared their returns for the 2018 fiscal year ahead of the April 15 Tax Day deadline. Some of these reticent Democrats have been among the biggest critics of Trump’s secrecy and deceptiveness, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Over the past several weeks, the national media has spilled a sea of ink in its attempts to deride, defend, or comprehend why Bernie Sanders—who had spent much of his life in elected office railing against the “millionaires and billionaires”—had been so slow to disclose his documents, only releasing them as Tax Day drew to a close.

Mother Jones reached out to the campaigns of Democratic candidates who have not shared any recent tax returns since they entered the 2020 race, to ask when we might see their taxes. We’ll keep the running tally updated here.

 


Waiting With Bated Breath

 

JOE BIDEN

Has he released them this cycle? No.

Does he plan to? Unclear.

When? Unclear.

On April 25, the former vice president became the 20th Democrat to enter the 2020 race, with an announcement that marked his third White House attempt in as many decades. Biden didn’t make it to the “tax return sharing” phase of the 1988 election—until recent elections, candidates waited until much closer to Election Day to show their financials—but he disclosed a decade of tax records in September 2008 when he was on the ticket as Barack Obama’s running mate. After their successful election, Obama and his veep released their tax returns during every year of their White House tenure; the last returns Americans saw from the Biden household were from 2015.

While there’s only a small gap in the public record regarding Biden’s finances, those intervening years could be the most interesting. After over four decades as an elected official, Biden began earning money in the private sector: He wrote a bestselling memoir in 2017 and has delivered a number of paid speaking engagements—including one that spoke favorably of a Republican congressman. (He has, however, largely avoided the sorts of appearances that proved problematic for 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who had been paid roughly $225,000 for each of the private speeches she’d given to Wall Street executives during her years as a private citizen.) 

Biden’s campaign has not yet responded to an inquiry about when he plans to share his returns.

 

CORY BOOKER

Has he released them this cycle? No.

Does he plan to? Yes.

When? Unclear.

Booker has been a fiery critic of President Trump’s reluctance to share tax returns. During the first debate between Trump and Clinton in September 2016, Booker chastised the Republican nominee for “FAILING miserably” as Trump explained with “stammering defensiveness” why he wouldn’t share those documents.

The New Jersey senator, however, has been cagey with his own records. During his first run for Senate in 2013, Booker revealed 15 years’ worth of filings, but only to a small handful of reporters—who weren’t allowed to take photographs or make copies of any documents. A spokesperson for Booker’s presidential campaign told NJ.com last week that the senator will release his returns, but declined to offer a timeline for that release.

Booker’s campaign has not yet responded to an inquiry about when he plans to share his returns.

 


Released

 

PETE BUTTIGIEG

Has he released them this cycle? Yes.

How many years’ worth? 10.

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor hasn’t really hammered Trump on the tax return front. During a moment of internet disquiet over Trump’s obstinance, Buttigieg tweeted that he was “slightly interested” in seeing President Trump’s returns—but “enormously interested” in the administration’s plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

On April 30, Buttigieg became the latest 2020 candidate to share his tax records when he dropped a decade of returns.

 

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

Has she released them this cycle? Yes.

How many years’ worth? 12.

Gillibrand was the first candidate to share her 2018 tax returns. In a video accompanying the release, she took a swipe at the sitting president as she touched on themes of accountability and transparency. “I want voters to know I’m beholden to no one, that my values are not for sale, and that I’m working only for you,” Gillibrand said.

Gillibrand has made releasing her tax documents a habit since 2012, when she first shared records dating back to 2007, the first year she held elected federal office.

 

KAMALA HARRIS

Has she released them this cycle? Yes.

How many years’ worth? 15.

Like many of her fellow Senate Democrats, Harris has criticized Trump’s unwillingness to share his returns. The first and only time the California senator has shared her tax returns was during her 2016 campaign, when she disclosed her 2015 records to the Sacramento Bee (though the Bee doesn’t note precisely which documents or in what manner she offered that information).

On April 14, Harris—who currently holds second place in first quarter fundraising—released tax returns dating back to 2004. She’s shared more years’ worth of recent tax documents than any of her fellow Democratic hopefuls.

 

JAY INSLEE

Has he released them this cycle? Yes.

How many years worth? 12.

The Washington governor dropped his returns—including his 2018 ones—at the end of March. Inslee has previously disclosed five years’ worth of returns during his first run for governor in 2012 and the following three years’ worth during his 2016 reelection campaign.

He has also voiced support for a bill pending in his home state that would keep any presidential candidate who does not release tax returns off the state’s ballot.

 

AMY KLOBUCHAR

Has she released them this cycle? Yes.

How many years’ worth? 13.

Like Gillibrand and Inslee, Klobuchar disclosed her tax documents on April 1 under the banner of openness, saying “transparency and accountability are fundamental to good governance.” Her posted documents date back to when she was first elected to the US Senate in 2006. On Tax Day, Klobuchar posted her 2018 returns, making her the fifth candidate to do so.

 

BETO O’ROURKE

Has he released them this cycle? Yes.

How many years’ worth? 10.

The former congressman, who has also boasted impressive fundraising numbers, been pretty quiet on the Trump tax return front. The issue got light mention during his 2018 campaign to unseat Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and he  never disclosed his personal tax returns during that high-profile Senate race.

When reporters in New Hampshire asked O’Rourke about his own returns in late March, he said he’d share them “sooner rather than later,” though he wasn’t sure how many years he’d share. “Certainly [the] last year,” he said, “but we’ll find out what the standard is and release that.”

O’Rourke shared 10 years’ worth of tax returns on April 15, one hour after Sen. Bernie Sanders shared his own long-awaited records. Despite the timely Tax Day release, O’Rourke’s 2018 returns were not among the documents released. The statement accompanying his returns suggested the Texan might not be quite finished with the year’s taxes: “As a candidate aspiring to restore the American people’s trust in the nation’s highest office, O’Rourke will also release his 2018 tax returns as soon as possible after they are filed.”

 

TIM RYAN

Has he released them this cycle? Yes.

How many years’ worth? 10.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan announced his candidacy for president in early April. Like his fellow House members in the 2020 race—Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) and Eric Swalwell (Calif.)—Ryan co-sponsored and voted for the House’s For the People Act, which would require presidential candidates to disclose a decade’s worth of personal and business tax returns.

On April 29, Ryan released returns spanning from 2009 to 2018.

 

BERNIE SANDERS

Has he released them this cycle? Yes.

How many years’ worth? 10.

No 2020 challenger has drawn more intrigue or ire on the tax front than Sanders. The Vermont senator has dedicated his entire political career to railing against political corruption, but Trump’s reluctance to share his returns haven’t figured prominently into Sanders’ arguments. That may be due in part to Sanders’ own hesitance to disclose. During his 2016 primary battle against Hillary Clinton, Sanders released his 2014 tax returns—the only such records he’s shared during his nearly 40 years in elected office.

Sanders’ status as a 2020 frontrunner has drawn heavier scrutiny than his insurgency campaign four years ago. The national media has been hounding Sanders about his timeline since he entered the race in February, leading to speculation that the senator might not want to disclose his own growing wealth, which he attributed to sales from his best-selling 2016 book, Our Revolution. Sanders scoffed that at criticism. “I didn’t know that it was a crime to write a good book,” he told a group of community leaders in Gary, Indiana, on Saturday, April 13. “My view has always been that we need a progressive tax system which demands that the wealthiest people in this country finally start sharing their fair share in taxes. If I make a lot of money, you make a lot of money.”

Sanders had been vague on the timing of his release, but he offered this clue on April 4. “Do you know what April 15th is?” he asked CNN. “It’s Tax Day.” Sure enough, he released 10 years’ worth of returns just as the post offices closed on Monday, which did in fact reveal that he’s made seven figures in recent years. “These tax returns show that our family has been fortunate,” Sanders said in a statement accompanying the documents’ release. “I am very grateful for that, as I grew up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck and I know the stress of economic insecurity.”

 

ELIZABETH WARREN

Has she released them this cycle? Yes.

How many years’ worth? 11.

Few have been as constant a critic of President Trump’s reluctance to share his taxes as Warren, who has made combatting political corruption one of her signature issues. Even her controversial release of a DNA test intended to prove her Native American ancestry—an assertion President Trump chided her for with the nickname “Pocahontas”—was apparently in service of seeking the president’s taxes:

Warren released a decade’s worth of records in August 2018, making her the first 2020 candidate to share her recent records (Warren was also seeking reelection to the US Senate at that time). On Wednesday morning, she posted her 2018 tax returns, making her the third contender to do so. She’s currently running a petition that calls on her fellow candidates to follow suit. Last fall, Warren introduced a sweeping anti-corruption bill that would require the IRS to release eight years’ of tax returns for presidential and vice presidential candidates.

 


Where Others Stand

 

JULIÁN CASTRO

Has he released them this cycle? No.

Does he plan to? Yes.

When? “With more than enough time before voting starts.”

The former San Antonio mayor, who has lately joined other 2020 hopefuls in calling on Trump to release his tax records, told the Texas Tribune on April 1 that he’d release his own taxes “with more than enough time before voting starts for people to take a look,” though he wasn’t sure how many he’d share. “Some people say five years, 10 years,” Castro said.

The Castro campaign did not respond to a follow-up question about the timing of his release or how many years’ worth of returns he’ll share.

 

JOHN DELANEY

Has he released them this cycle? No.

Does he plan to? Unclear.

The wealthy financier-turned-congressman declined to share his full tax records when he first ran for Congress in 2012, opting instead to share a summary of his returns from 2004 to 2010 with the Washington Post. During his three terms in Congress, Delaney consistently ranked as one of the richest members in the House of Representatives.

Delaney’s campaign has not yet responded to a question about whether he plans to share his returns.

 

TULSI GABBARD

Has she released them this cycle? No.

Does she plan to? Yes.

When? Unclear.

A spokesperson for Gabbard’s campaign told Mother Jones on April 8 that the congresswoman plans to release her tax returns, but has not yet laid out a timeline for doing so.

 

JOHN HICKENLOOPER

Has he released them this cycle? No.

Does he plan to? Unclear.

The former Colorado governor, who made a fortune with his brew pub empire, shared 23 years’ worth of tax returns with a small group of reporters when he first ran for governor in 2010. Hickenlooper’s campaign has not responded to an inquiry about whether he plans to release subsequent years of his returns.

 

 

ERIC SWALWELL

Has he released them this cycle? No.

Does he plan to? Yes.

When? “I will release mine soon.”

Following Democrats’ sweeping 2018 midterm victories, California Rep. Swalwell made headlines for being the first to promise that his colleagues would use their new majority to request President Trump’s returns. On Monday evening, Swalwell officially entered the 2020 primary.

In a statement to Mother Jones on April 10, a campaign spokesperson for Rep. Swalwell said, “Americans should have no doubt about where their leaders’ loyalties lie. All candidates running for President should release their tax returns. I will release mine soon, as well.”

 

ANDREW YANG

Has he released them this cycle? No.

Does he plan to? Yes.

When? “The coming weeks.”

The lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, who recently raised enough money to qualify for the Democratic debate stage, hasn’t mentioned releasing his tax returns. In an emailed statement to Mother Jones on April 9, Yang’s campaign said, “Andrew will release the past several years tax returns in the coming weeks.”

This article was originally published on April 10, 2019, and has been revised as recently as April 15, 2019, to include new information.

Image credits: Kristin Callahan/Ace Pictures/ZUMA; Jack Kurtz/ZUMA; Michael Brochstein/ZUMA

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