Clinton and Kaine release tax returns. Will Trump and Pence follow suit?
The Clintons have disclosed tax returns for every year since 1977, and VP candidate Tim Kaine just released his returns for the past 10 years. Neither Mr. Trump nor his VP candidate, Gov. Pence, have released any.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File
Hillary and Bill Clinton earned $10.6 million last year, according to a tax filing released by her campaign that sought to pressure presidential rival Donald Trump to disclose his tax returns.
The filing shows that the Clintons paid a federal tax rate of 34.2 percent in 2015. Mr. Trump paid $0 in taxes for 1978 and 1979, some of the only years for which his tax history is known.
The bulk of their income — more than $6 million — came from speaking fees for appearances made largely before Mrs. Clinton launched her campaign in April 2015. They gave more than $1,042,000 to charity, with $1 million going to the Clinton family foundation. That is the financial vehicle the family uses to give money to museums, schools, churches and other charitable causes. It is not the same organization as the better-known Clinton Foundation.
The Clintons' income puts them well within the ranks of the top 0.1 percent of Americans, though they pay a higher tax rate than many of their elite peers, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, based on 2013 data.
The release on Friday is part of an effort to undercut Trump's character by questioning the celebrity businessman's record. Trump has refused to make his filings public, saying they're under audit by the Internal Revenue Service and he'll release them only once that review is complete. An audit didn't stop Richard Nixon from releasing his returns, and all major US presidential candidates in modern history have released their returns.
Why? Largely because of Mr. Nixon's precedent, as The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Grier explained in 2011:
His 1974 resignation over Watergate makes it easy today to forget that by late 1973, President Nixon was in big trouble over how little he was paying in federal taxes.
... Upon further consideration, the IRS decided that Nixon owed $465,000 in back taxes, which he paid. This penalty cut Nixon’s personal wealth in half.
After Nixon’s resignation, President Gerald Ford faced the task of restoring citizens’ faith in government. The US tax system is largely voluntary, after all. Few taxpayers are audited. If voters think the person at the top is cheating, they will, too.
So in April 1976, at the start of his own reelection campaign, Mr. Ford publicly released his 1975 return. He’d paid $94,569 in taxes on an income of $204,606. After he was elected, Jimmy Carter followed suit, and so has every president since, as well as numerous vice presidents and other top US politicians.
Trump steered clear of mentioning his personal taxes Friday.
The Clintons have disclosed tax returns for every year since 1977, in part due to laws requiring public officials to release returns. She put out her most recent eight years of tax filings last summer and several years during her first presidential bid.
Seeking common ground with blue-collar workers who have been attracted to Trump, Clinton frequently mentions his returns as a way of underscoring how his economic plans would benefit his personal interests and questioning whether he's as wealthy as he claims.
Democrats believe Trump's returns could be a trove of politically damaging information. They want to see his tax rate, charitable giving, and business dealings with foreign governments.
"Here's a pretty incredible fact: There is a non-zero chance that Donald Trump isn't paying *any* taxes," Clinton tweeted, after releasing her own returns.
Protesters at Trump afternoon rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, held up signs reading "Tax Forms" before being escorted out by security.
Clinton's strategy borrows from President Obama's winning playbook against Mitt Romney in 2012. Obama repeatedly used Romney's business dealings against him and seized upon his reluctance to release certain tax records.
Clinton's campaign also released 10 years of returns from running mate Tim Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton. Over the last decade, the couple has donated 7.5 percent of their income to charity, the campaign said, and paid an effective tax rate of 25.6 percent last year.
Senator Kaine, the Virginia legislator who has spent much of his life in public service, reported a far lower income than the Clintons. Over the past decade, his household income peaked in 2014, when Kaine and his wife earned more than $314,000 in adjusted gross income. The Clintons made about 90 times more, reporting nearly $28 million for the same year.
Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has yet to say if he will release his taxes, which he has not done as governor. A spokesman for the governor's office referred all tax-related questions to his vice presidential campaign. The campaign did not respond to messages.
Clinton has tried to paint Trump as an out-of-touch business mogul. But her substantial wealth has caused headaches. Republicans have seized upon the millions in speaking fees and a tone-deaf comment by Clinton in a 2014 interview that she was "dead broke" after leaving the White House in 2001. The couple owed millions in legal fees, but quickly generated far more from book deals, paid appearances and consulting fees.
In total, the Clintons earned than $139 million between 2007 and 2014, according to eight years of federal income tax returns released by her campaign last July.
The bulk of their income came from speeches delivered to corporate and interest groups, which paid Bill Clinton and later Hillary Clinton after she resigned as secretary of State in early 2013.
Clinton delivered six paid speeches in 2015, including one to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. She commanded her highest rate from EBay, which paid her $315,000 for a March 2015 address in San Jose.
Bill Clinton's consulting work for GEMS Education, a global network of for-profit schools based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, earned him more than $5.6 million in fees between 2010 and 2015, according to the tax returns.
He also earned more than $17 million over the same period for consulting work for Laureate Education, Inc., another for-profit education system based in Baltimore that makes most of its profits from overseas operations. Several former students have sued a school operated by the company, alleging fraud.
Bill Clinton's office previously said he had ended his consulting work with Laureate last year. On Friday, his office confirmed that he also halted his business dealings with GEMS Education last year. His office said he had "engaged with GEMS students and faculty around the world and assisted the Varkey GEMS Foundation in its efforts to increase access to education to underprivileged children."
Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan and Jeff Horwitz contributed to this report from Washington. Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed from Erie, Pa.