California Just Passed a Law That Could Force Trump to Release His Tax Returns

If the president doesn’t comply, he could be booted from the state’s primary ballot.

Stefani Reynolds/Zuma

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

President Donald Trump won’t show up on primary ballots in California unless he releases his tax returns, according to a state law enacted Tuesday.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill requiring all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings by late November in order to appear on the presidential primary ballot in March next year, the Los Angeles Times reported. The law only applies directly to the primary, and not to the November 2020 general election.

California is not the only state to have passed laws aimed at getting Trump to release his tax returns. Earlier this month, New York passed a law requiring the president—and other federal officials—to release state tax returns upon request from one of three congressional committees. California takes the practice a step further by essentially mandating the president to release his tax returns, or risk handing the state’s Republican primary votes to another candidate. (Since Trump isn’t likely to face a competitive Republican primary next year, he could get his party’s nomination without California’s delegates and still possibly appear on the state’s ballot in the general election next fall.)

Legal experts predict that the law, which applies to candidates of all political parties, will be challenged—but that it could inspire other blue states to enact similar legislation. If California’s law is upheld by the courts, it could cause unintended consequences. “Requiring presidential candidates to release their taxes as a condition of ballot access may not be constitutional,” Rick Hasen, a professor at UC Irvine School of Law, wrote for Politico two years ago. “And even if it is, the Democrats sponsoring such legislation run the risk of major retaliatory measures being taken in Republican states.”

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate