Transparency in Government
The founding fathers of this country decided that governments existed to serve the people and protect the natural rights of its citizens. In building it, the founders simply asked people to give their elected representatives the authority to speak on their political behalf. That is what you are doing when you elect a congressman or congresswoman.
However, since you are entrusting someone with this power, you want to make sure that they are actually representing your interests. Thus, one of the cornerstones of this idea of government is that politicians must always be accountable to the people. Citizens need to know what their representatives are doing, where their tax dollars are going and how the government is handling various issues. This prevents politicians from abusing their power or misusing taxes since the people can always hold their leaders accountable.
This is why transparency in government is extremely important. Political candidates require funding in order to run for major offices. So, where does that money come from? If a candidate is accepting lots of money, for example, from oil corporations, pharmaceutical companies or fast food chains, can you really expect them to represent your best interests? Transparency begins with campaign finance disclosure. The purpose of the disclosure is to inform you what ties candidates may have to special interest groups before they are even elected to office. Once in power, government officials are expected to maintain a degree of proactive disclosure, which means they voluntarily make information available.
Keep this in mind:
1. Almost every candidate who runs for public office is fairly wealthy. Because of that wealth, how they made their money can tell you whether they have potential conflicts of interest specifically, who they made that money from. I am not financially wealthy. I work hard for every penny that I earn. I get out here in these streets and stay on my grind.
2. Tax returns tell us how much candidates give to charity. I give to charity annually because, in my heart, it is the right thing to do. I have what I need. It brings me great joy to help others in need.
3. Are the politicians we elect to serve in public office like us? Most likely not. Again, these candidates are much wealthier than the average American. Many politicians don’t even know what it means to “rob Peter to pay Paul” or to make a dollar out of 25 cents. I am that average American who knows deeply what it is like to raise a family on an extremely tight budget. I know all too well what it feels like to have to hold on to $20 and make it last for a week. I have robbed Peter so much that I stripped him down to his boxer shorts and that one crew sock with the hole in it. Peter begged me to stop robbing him. Once I got my financial affairs in order, I no longer had to rob him. My debts to Paul, for the most part, have been satisfied. The debts that I have now are current with my creditors and my credit score is very good.
My Obligation to You
Proactive disclosure is a great way for politicians to demonstrate transparency to the people. This is why I am disclosing my financial records to you. Although I am running for U.S. Senate in November 2022 and I am not in public office as of yet, I still want to disclose my financial records to you because it is the right thing to do. I want you to get to know me instead of unfairly judging me.
A Fun History Fact
Check this out: the origin of politicians releasing their tax returns goes back to Richard Nixon and his cocker spaniel. Nixon, running as Eisenhower's vice president in 1952, was accused of financial wrongdoing “related to a fund established by political backers to pay for campaign expenses,” as stated by Joseph J. Thorndike of the Tax History Project wrote in 2012.
Nixon admitted to taking one gift, a pet dog from a donor. The family named the dog Checkers. “The kids, like all kids, love the dog,” Nixon said, “and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.”
What has become known as Nixon’s “Checkers speech” was all an attempt to clear his name. He challenged the Democratic Party ticket, headed by Adlai Stevenson, to “make a complete financial statement as to their financial history,” as he believed he had. If they didn’t, Nixon alleged, it would be proof “they have something to hide.” So, Stevenson and his running mate, Alabama Sen. John Sparkman, released a decade of their tax returns. Eisenhower, the guy at the top of the ticket with Nixon, even released a summary of his own taxes. But, Nixon did not.
Also, the practice of releasing taxes didn't become tradition until 21 years later and it involved Nixon again.
“The IRS audited Nixon in 1973, when questions bubbled up about a fishy charitable donation and speculation that Nixon had tried to game the tax system, according to a paper prepared for the United States Capitol Historical Society. (This happened around the same time as the Watergate investigation but was a separate issue.) Nixon said one of his most well-known lines amid this scandal: “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook.”
“Nixon eventually released a slew of financial information to the public in December 1973, including the previous four years of tax returns, to try to quell the criticism. He asked a congressional committee to examine them, too. However, the congressional investigation ultimately found that Nixon owed $476,431 (approximately $2.3 million in today's dollars) in unpaid taxes and accrued interest. Oops.”
From that point on, the disclosure of tax returns became the norm for presidential candidates.