Thursday, March 27, 2008

Breaking News: Clinton Clearly Promises to Produce Full Tax Returns Next Week

In a lengthy and wide-ranging telephone press conference today called by Hillary Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson, Deputy Communications Director Phil Singer, and Policy Director Neera Tanden, I asked the following question:

I’ve seen reports that Senator Clinton will be producing some kind of financial information next week, but the details have been a little vague. Will Senator Clinton be producing her complete 2000 through 2006 tax returns, including all schedules, next week?

Wolfson responded:

Sen Clinton said ... that she would be producing her tax returns within the week, and we are endeavoring to do just that. And as to – I’m not fully conversant enough to know what the distinction is between schedules and other tax information, so I don’t want to give you an answer that is incorrect, but I am quite confident that all of the information that the public needs and that reporters need to make very, very informed judgments about their finances will be made available.... [O]f course they have filed annual financial disclosure forms while Senator Clinton was in the Senate that details [sic] the sources of their income, and obviously tax returns will provide additional information, and I am confident that you and others will have ample opportunity to look at them and if you have followup questions of course we’ll be available to answer them, but I am quite confident that all information that is necessary to make very good judgments about their finances will be made available.

I asked a followup:

Scanning and posting tax returns is a fairly simple process. Why is there any delay at all in making her returns available?

Wolfson responded:

You know, why was there delay in Senator Obama’s making his returns available....? You know, we’ll have them within the week, you’ll have an opportunity to look at them, you can turn a skeptical eye to them as you may care to and if you have followup questions about them we’ll be happy to answer them, but they’ll be available online.... and people will be able to take a look at them.

I admit it: I’m a cynic. I saw no news reports or press releases in which Clinton herself promised to produce tax returns next week – but maybe it just wasn’t publicized. I still don’t understand why it takes more than 24 hours to have a staffer scan and post tax returns; some bloggers and commentors have articulated fears that the Clintons are using this time to have their returns doctored, and while I don’t share those fears, posting the returns immediately after Obama did would have snuffed out any such speculation. It also strikes me as a little funny that someone as well-informed and sophisticated as Wolfson doesn’t know what tax schedules are – they’re simply the attachments that go with the Form 1040 whenever a taxpayer itemizes his or her deductions or has investment income, as the Clintons (and Wolfson) certainly do. And the length and repetitiveness of his answer makes me mindful of the Queen’s comment in Hamlet: “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.” As one person has exegised the line, “[s]omeone who is telling the truth [usually does so] ... rather plainly and shortly. Someone who is assuring too much is usually lying either to herself or to the audience”– ie, it implies that “the lady” “will break her word.”

But I’m tired of being cynical, and I’m going to trust that the lady’s word is good. I’m looking forward to next week, when we’ll all know exactly how good it is.

To those who encouraged Clinton to do the right thing by participating in the “Tax Fax” grassroots campaign (outlined on both The Huffington Post and VichyDems) by faxing copies of their own tax returns, with personal info deleted, to Clinton’s campaign offices – you can stand down. THANK YOU, and GOOD WORK!

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