Worrying about candidates’ tax returns is so 2012

Remember when it was scandalous if a candidate for major office did not serve up for public scrutiny all of his tax returns going back years? Return with us now to those thrilling days of…2012. For much of that year’s presidential campaign, as Jim Geraghty recalls, Mitt Romney’s tax returns for 2011 and the period before 2010 were treated as a huge pressing issue for the wealthy candidate:

Romney’s tax returns warranted segments on CNN, segments on Meet the Press, the roundtable on ABC’s This Week, and the roundtable on PBS Newshour. CNN and Gallup asked questions about it in their surveys. Obviously MSNBC hosts treated his tax returns as if they contained the location the Lost City of Atlantis in them. Obama surrogates and Romney surrogates were asked about it. Ann Romney was asked about it on NBC’s Rock Center. Romney was asked about it in interview after interview. The Obama campaign put out plenty of “what is he hiding?” ads. To ensure the low-information voters heard about it, The Daily Show and Funny or Die did segments on Romney’s delay in releasing his tax returns.

A year later, two wealthy liberal Democrats seek high office in major elections — Cory Booker in New Jersey (U.S. Senator) and Terry McAuliffe in Virginia (Governor). Have they been forthcoming about their taxes?

Not exactly. Booker allowed reporters selected by his campaign to look at his tax returns for only three hours, with no copies or photographs. McAuliffe hasn’t released any of his tax returns.

Yet, as Geraghty points out, Booker and McAuliffe are both wealthy. And they have plenty of connections with companies that do business with the government in New Jersey and Virginia. McAuliffe, in particular, is quite the wheeler-dealer. Thus, says Geraghty, “the possibility of conflict-of-interest or financial misdeeds is at least as great for these two as it was for Romney.”

So has the media raised a stink about the unwillingness of Booker or McAuliffe to share their tax returns with the public? Not according to Geraghty, and not from the coverage of the Virginia gubernatorial race that I’ve seen.

Geraghty’s conclusion seems inescapable:

The mainstream press cares about the tax returns and financial disclosures of Republican candidates and doesn’t care about the tax returns and financial disclosures of Democrat candidates, because Republicans are the bad guys and Democrats are the good guys.

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