COLUMBUS -- Presidential candidates would be required to disclose recent tax filings in order to appear on the Ohio ballot, under legislation being considered in the Ohio House.
Backers are calling HB 93 the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public, or TRUMP, Act, with Democrats in Ohio and lawmakers in more than two dozen other states offering the proposal in response to the president's refusal to disclose his returns.
"Without full disclosure of the president's tax returns, we don't know who he owes money to," Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), primary sponsor of the legislation, told members of the House's Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee. "We don't know who has leverage over him. The TRUMP Act would be the surest way to protect the American public from presidential conflicts of interest and to answer questions about possible foreign influence and entanglement. This bill would bring transparency back to our elections and to make the president accountable to his bosses -- the American people."
The legislation had its first committee hearing Tuesday, with no indication of further movement in the Republican-controlled chamber.
Under HB 93, candidates for president and vice president would have to disclose income tax returns for the five most recent years. The requirement would cover major party, third party, write-in and other candidates, and submitted returns would be published on the secretary of state's website, with Social Security numbers and other private information redacted.
Candidates who failed to disclose their federal returns would be barred from the Ohio ballot.
Clyde said Tuesday that the bill would reveal how much presidential candidates earned, paid in taxes, donated to charity and other details that voters should know.
"Every major party presidential nominee since 1980 has disclosed their tax returns until this past election, when Republican nominee Donald Trump broke 40 years of precedent and refused to disclose his taxes," Clyde said, adding, "This president and his family have business interests in many other countries, including Russia. We know he is not fully walled off from his business. His children give him updates about the Trump organization and he can withdraw money from it whenever he wants. This is not normal."
But the legislation could face legal challenges if enacted. An analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission noted that HB 93 would create "a substantive qualification for presidential candidates, beyond the qualifications listed in the U.S. Constitution."
Rep. Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton) said during Tuesday's committee hearing that presidents and other office-holders already are required to disclose certain financial details.
"Why haven't you personally released your tax returns and led by example here?" asked Rep. Derek Merrin, a Republican from the Toledo area.
Clyde responded that she was open to disclosing her own returns and to considering an amendment requiring candidates for other offices to do the same.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.