Staff Columnist

Democrats care about tax returns, except when they don't

Were the demands to see Trump's taxes genuine, or just politically convenient?

An activist by the name of DJ Quacker holds a sign asking Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to release his tax forms, outside of Trump Tower in New York City, New York, U.S., September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
An activist by the name of DJ Quacker holds a sign asking Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to release his tax forms, outside of Trump Tower in New York City, New York, U.S., September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

With less than two weeks before Iowans will start casting ballots in this year’s general election, voters are still waiting to see Fred Hubbell’s tax returns.

The Democrat released a prepared summary of one year’s taxes last month, showing he brought in more than $3 million last year, but not showing where that money came from. Weeks before that, Gov. Kim Reynolds released 10 years of full tax returns. A new Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll shows voters are unimpressed with Hubbell’s lack of transparency.

Pollsters listed three criticisms of Hubbell and asked how problematic the issues are to voters — withholding tax information, not understanding the needs of ordinary Iowans because of his wealth, and shutting down Younkers stores while enriching himself. Hubbell’s taxes are the biggest concern, according to the poll, with 66 percent of likely voters saying that’s a problem, compared to 49 percent on understanding ordinary Iowans, and 51 percent on shutting down Younkers stores.

Even among Hubbell’s supporters, 57 percent say his tax controversy is a problem. Yet astoundingly, 29 percent of them say the claim — worded in the Iowa Poll as “He has withheld information about his taxes that could reveal conflicts of interest” — is not even true. Maybe they are doubtful about conflicts of interest, or perhaps they are operating with alternative facts in mind.

Republicans are painting Hubbell as an out-of-touch millionaire. Right or wrong, Hubbell’s refusal to share basic financial information with voters — a bipartisan tradition in Iowa governor’s races — gives the Republican criticism legitimacy. Speculation about potential conflicts of interest has been invigorated by a series of miniature scandals in the past few weeks.

As a leader of the Iowa Power Fund, Hubbell voted to give state aid to a DuPont ethanol facility in 2011 when he owned DuPont stock. Even though he listed the stock in state disclosure forms, he did not recuse himself from the discussion.

We also know Hubbell improperly received a homeowner tax credit in Arizona even though his primary residence was in Iowa. Maricopa County officials told The Gazette earlier this month that Hubbell did not respond to multiple letters asking him to fix the discrepancy, and he likely received the tax break for six years.

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And yet more than a quarter of Hubbell’s supporters still think concern over his tax documents is fake news. Confront a die-hard Democrat about Hubbell’s cloudy financial history and they likely will change the subject to President Donald Trump, who refused to release tax information in 2016, breaking a convention of modern presidential politics.

Republicans do it too. Ask a Reynolds supporter about the airplane trips she’s received as in-kind campaign contributions, and they might deflect with the fact former Democratic Govs. Chet Culver and Tom Vilsack also enjoyed free rides on private jets.

Some Iowans have been blinded by partisanship, caught in a vicious cycle aiming only to be a little bit less bad than the other side. If you can’t defend your own people in the discussion at hand, settle for dragging the other team down to your level.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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