On April 3, 2016 Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sat for an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. Sanders was seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
Sanders was on a roll, having won five contests in a row at that point: Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington. Two days after that interview, he would pull-off a stunning defeat of Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin. He would add Wyoming the following week to make it seven wins in a row, setting up a showdown in New York which would ultimately decide the trajectory of the race.
During the interview, Tapper pressed Sanders about his tax returns, which Sanders had been promising to release. Clinton had released her most recent eight years’ worth at that point.
Tapper: Before the New York primary, will you match her? Will you post your full returns for the last eight years?
Sanders: You know, we are not — you know, to be very honest with you, you know who does our tax returns? My wife does our tax returns. We have been a little bit busy lately. So, we will get out as much information as we can. There ain’t going to be very much exciting in that. I get a salary from the United States Senate. You know, there’s not going to be anything new in it that there hasn’t — people haven’t seen for the last many years, but we will get it out as soon as we can.
Take note of some things in that response. Sanders stumbled over his words like he was caught off-guard. He blamed his wife. He reassured potential voters how boring his taxes will be. Most importantly, he made a promise, “Soon.”
Hillary Clinton topped Sanders rather easily (58% to 42%) in the New York primary and she would go on to capture eight of the next ten contests after ending Sanders’ streak. Clinton regained an upper-hand she would not relinquish, and once Bernie Sanders realized he was not going to be the Democratic nominee, he stopped promising to release his tax returns.
Bernie Sanders successfully ran for re-election to the United States Senate in 2018.
This February 19, little more than six weeks after taking the oath of office after his re-election to the Senate, Bernie Sanders formally announced another run for the Democratic nomination for president.
The following week, he held a town hall on CNN and faced a question from Wolf Blitzer that might sound familiar.
Blitzer: “Will you release 10 years of your tax returns?”
Blitzer: “When do you think we’ll be able to see them?”
Sanders: “Soon. … They’re very boring tax returns. Our tax returns will bore you to death. It just was a mechanical issue. We don’t have accountants at home, my wife does most of it, and we will get that stuff out.”
Just like when Jake Tapper asked him about his taxes three years prior, Sanders stumbled over words like he was caught off-guard. He blamed his wife. He reassured potential voters how boring his taxes will be. Most importantly, he reiterated his 2016 promise, “Soon.”
When the question of Senator Sanders’ taxes is posed online, his supporters quickly switch gears.
Seriously, have you ever seen a zombie movie where the zombies are happily and peacefully milling around at the end of an alley, and them a human makes a noise by accidentally knocking over a trash can lid or something, and they all go berserk and turn into a lumbering, bloodthirsty mob?
Ask the question of Bernie’s taxes and the attacks and excuses begin.
“Bernie DID release his tax returns.”
This is usually followed by claims the person posing the question about Sanders’ taxes did not bother to do their research, and often accompanied by claims the other candidates have not released their tax returns either.
Truth is, Bernie Sanders released one 1040 summary page from 2014. Elizabeth Warren has released 10 years of returns. Kirstin Gillibrand has released 11 years. Kamala Harris released some tax returns during her 2016 Senate campaign. Like everything else these days, there is a website to track the releases.
“Why are you attacking Bernie?”
Asking a candidate to fulfill a promise he made three years ago and has repeated as recently as this week hardly qualifies as an attack. If he does not want to release his tax returns, or if he does not plan to release them until after the primaries are completed, he should say that rather than stumbling and stalling every time the subject is raised.
Instead, he keeps promising to release 10 years worth.
“Are you a Trump supporter? Are you a troll, or a bot, or Russian?”
No, no, no, and no.
“Trump never released his tax returns.”
True, and look how that worked out for America. The grifter in chief is looting America’s coffers and likely violating the emoluments clause every day, and the citizenry has no way to know or to take corrective action as no one outside the IRS know what assets Trump has and where he is getting paid.
“Trump and the GOP are destroying American Democracy, but sure, spend all your energy fretting about and attacking Bernie Sanders.”
Rules of engagement do not go away just because the battle is underway. If anything, in the heat of battle, rules and discipline do more to aid in victory than anger or firepower or propaganda. I am a multi-tasker. I can hold Trump and the GOP accountable and still have time to press Democrats on issues as well.
“He will, and there will be nothing in them worth crowing about, but it sure seems super unuseful to spew bile on Bernie for this small thing instead of focusing on Trump.”
Wow, nice one. Repeat Bernie’s empty promise, blame ME for asking the question, AND try to change the subject to Trump. There is the Bernie defender trifecta!
Look, folks, I will give it to you straight. I don’t care WHAT is in Bernie Sanders’ tax returns. If he went from being the poorest member of the Senate to being a multi-millionaire in just a few years by running for president and writing books about running for president, so be it. Other than a cursory glance that I consider my due diligence as a political reporter, the content of Senator Sanders’ tax returns (or that of any candidate, really) is only relevant if there are huge red flags.
What concerns me is this quote, “I’ll be doing my tax returns at the appropriate time. I haven’t even announced yet.” Who said that? Donald Trump. on April 26, 2011, Trump was considering seeking the 2012 Republican nomination which eventually went to Mitt Romney.
Nearly eight years ago, Donald Trump promised America that if he sought his party’s nomination for president, he would release his tax returns.
We are STILL waiting.
My advice to Senator Sanders?
Release. Don’t release. I don’t care! But stop stalling. Stop lying. Stop saying, “Soon!” and blaming your wife and mechanical issues. I can print my last decade of tax returns from Turbo Tax in 15 seconds or get them online from the IRS website in about 2 minutes. Why can’t he?
No Democrat is going to be included in the first debate this June if they have not received donations from at least 65,000 people. I am not sure how the Democratic National Committee arrived at that number, but that is the benchmark.
I will go them one better: No Democrat should be included in the first debate if they have not publicly released at least the three most recent years of tax returns they have available.
You have three months until the first debate, Senator Sanders…better get busy!