Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Op-Ed: Corker Should Release His Taxes

For weeks now I have been asking what Bob Corker is hiding by not releasing his full tax returns. It appears I am not the only one who has been asking that same question.

Below is an op-ed from the Commercial Appeal that calls on Corker to release his full tax returns:

Bob Corker's campaign got a boost this week when President Bush made an appearance in Tennessee to lobby on behalf of the U.S. Senate hopeful. But Bush's speech, while pro-Corker all the way, was also tinged with some irony.

Bush told the audience at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville that he needs Corker, and others like him, to further the goal of spreading democracy throughout the world. What makes that ironic is Corker's attitude toward releasing some of his own financial records that citizens might want to know about before they vote on Nov. 7.

After all, openness and accountability are two of the hallmarks of American democracy. And while his opponent, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., has released copies of his complete federal income tax returns for the past four years, the former Chattanooga mayor hasn't been willing to provide that much detail.

Instead, Corker agreed to release a one-page summary of his gross income, taxes paid and charitable contributions from 1976 through 2005. He also agreed to make available the first two pages of his federal 1040 forms, but not the accompanying schedules that outline his sources of wealth.

If Corker were just another millionaire businessman, his finances wouldn't necessarily be anyone else's business. But Corker is trying to convince Tennesseans he's trustworthy enough to represent them as a senator. So it's important for citizens to know about his business interests, partnerships and liabilities -- past and present -- to determine if any of them might conflict with his public duties.

For his part, Corker says there isn't anything particularly interesting to be found in his tax returns. He added that he sold all of his business holdings earlier this year, so he would have "zero" conflicts of interest as a senator.

But if that's the case, why not share the information and put to rest any possible doubts?

It's true that neither federal nor state law requires candidates to publicly disclose their personal tax returns. It's up to the judgment of individual candidates to decide how much, or how little, information to make public.

Corker pointed out that he's releasing the same type of information that U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Gov. Phil Bredesen did while campaigning for statewide office, but for a longer period of time.

He makes some good points, but he must remember that he's being measured against someone who was willing to disclose more than he has so far.

If his tax returns are as boring as he claims they are, Corker should release them to the public so Ford can't use that issue against him.