California Plans to Appeal Ruling on 2020 Candidates’ Tax Returns

October 2, 2019 Updated: October 2, 2019

California’s secretary of state plans to appeal a court verdict that blocked a state law requiring presidential candidates to disclose five years of tax returns in order to qualify to appear on primary ballots.

“California will appeal this ruling and we will continue to make our thorough, thoughtful argument for stronger financial disclosure requirements for presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” said Alex Padilla, the state’s chief elections officer, in a statement.

Padilla made the announcement on Oct. 1, after U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. released a written opinion saying the law likely violates the U.S. Constitution. Senate Bill 27, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law last July, was temporarily blocked on Sept. 19 by the same judge.

The crux of Judge England’s decision stems in part from the existence of the Ethics in Government Act (EIGA), a 1978 federal law that mandates public disclosure of financial and employment information of public officials and their families. Trump and his campaign maintain that this law supersedes any state laws regarding the release of tax returns.

During court proceedings, Judge England voiced concern that the law could cause “irreparable harm without temporary relief” for Trump and other candidates.

“Do we even need to get here if EIGA preempts [the new California law]?” Judge England asked. “Is that it?”

England also wondered about the possibility that this law would cause a problematic precedence that could “create a hodgepodge of law around the country.”

When The Epoch Times reached out for additional comments, Judicial Assistant to England, Adele España-Purpur, responded that the judge was not available at the time.

The author of the bill, Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), said the requirements of the new law are a matter of transparency, and in his view, “Transparency is a nonpartisan issue. And it’s transparency that provides the basis for accountability in government,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

However, other commentators see the law as unconstitutional and directly harmful to the voters of California.

“The law itself could reasonably be described as a publicity stunt,” Robert Popper, the Director of the Election Integrity Project for Judicial Watch told The Epoch Times. “In 2017, the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Council for the state of California told the legislators that the bill they were passing, which was a predecessor to the bill that they did pass, would violate the qualifications clause of the United States Constitution.”

“I would add that that 2017 bill, the predecessor bill, was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and one of the things he cited was constitutional concerns,” Popper continued. “So their lawyers said it was unconstitutional, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it on those grounds, in part, and then they passed it again.”

While the Constitution offers provisions that enable certain regulations — such as ensuring that elections are conducted in an orderly fashion, making sure that candidates are running only in one primary, that those candidates have a minimum level of support — the new law doesn’t meet those criteria, argued opponents.

“This law prevents the incumbent President of the United States from running in the largest state in his own party’s primary,” Popper said. “And it does it for what I consider to be the shallowest of reasons.”

While the law is seen as being instated to force President Trump to release his tax records or forego appearing on California ballots, some suggested that the state’s voters would be the ones most affected by the law, as well as the judge’s decision to block it.

“The action by the court is a victory for California voters and their ability to vote for the candidate of their choice in March,” California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Patterson told The Epoch Times.

Patterson, referring to “the Democrats’ petty partisan maneuvers,” added that “it is unconscionable that Democrats continue wasting time and taxpayer dollars on political tricks instead of focusing their efforts and resources on fixing California’s serious problems such as homelessness, our failing education system and the skyrocketing cost of living.”

Provisions of the new law would require candidates to disclose tax returns by November 26 in order to secure eligibility for the primary on March 3.