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For the first time in a generation, California voters elected a governor without getting a peek at the candidates’ tax returns.
By law, 1040s are confidential. But in the interest of transparency and full disclosure, candidates for governor have provided news reporters access to several years worth of the documents.
The information almost always provides detailed insights into how candidates make their livings and invest their fortunes. Occasionally, the information can turn a campaign.
In the 1990 governor’s race, Republican and eventual winner Pete Wilson argued that Democrat Dianne Feinstein would face a welter of prospective conflicts of interest if elected because of the financial holdings of her husband, investment banker Richard Blum. Financial data from Feinstein’s tax returns gave heft to Wilson’s charges.
This time around, Attorney General Jerry Brown offered during the primary to make his returns public – but only if Republican Meg Whitman simultaneously publicized hers.
Whitman at first demurred – and then offered to make 25 years worth of her returns public, far more than any candidate had ever disclosed. But Whitman demanded that Brown also release 25 years of returns. This time the Democrat balked, and although newspaper editorial pages chided the candidates, their 1040s remained secret.
Whitman’s tax returns would have revealed detailed information about how she has invested the billion-dollar fortune she earned as CEO of eBay.
As California Watch reported during the campaign, Whitman put part of her fortune into funds managed by the Goldman Sachs investment bank, but the precise amounts of her financial stake with Goldman – and where Goldman invested the money – remains unknown.
Brown’s returns would have revealed new information about his so-called missing years – from the time of his departure from the governor’s office in 1982 until he was elected mayor of Oakland in 1999. During that time, Brown was a partner for a Los Angeles law firm, served as chairman of the state Democratic party and hosted a radio talk show.