Staff Editorial

Iowans expect more transparency than Hubbell is offering

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell meets with elected officials and local mental health care providers as part of his campaign’s statewide mental health tour in Cedar Rapids on Aug. 14, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell meets with elected officials and local mental health care providers as part of his campaign’s statewide mental health tour in Cedar Rapids on Aug. 14, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell releasing his tax information last week left Iowans with more questions than answers.

The Democrat disclosed only a summary of last year’s taxes, showing $3 million in federal adjusted gross income. Journalists were invited to view tax documents, but they were not available for the public to see, and Hubbell’s sources of income were not included.

Hubbell’s skimpy disclosure was disappointing, especially given that he and his team suggested over the past few months more substantial records were forthcoming.

In contrast, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds released 10 years of tax returns, with full documents available for the public to download and view. That’s more transparency than Reynolds’ Republican and Democratic predecessors offered, and she challenged Hubbell to do the same.

Gubernatorial candidates have offered varying levels of disclosure over the years and there’s no clear standard, but Hubbell’s offering clearly falls short.

At the very least, we urge Hubbell to release a full tax return from past year for public view. Five years would be better, and 10 years would be ideal. And he should do so quickly, as early voting begins in about a month.

Hubbell’s finances are a legitimate public concern. He had a successful business career, by all accounts, and amassed enormous wealth along the way. That was evidenced by his admirable record of charitable giving. At the same time he built his fortune, he was extremely active politically, serving on important government and nonprofit bodies.

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We don’t begrudge Hubbell for his success, but opportunities for conflicts of interest by a businessman as heavily involved in government as Hubbell are obvious. Voters reasonably will wonder what Hubbell is hiding by withholding more extensive tax information, just as they did when President Donald Trump refused to release tax returns during his 2016 campaign, drawing fierce criticism from political opponents.

Democrats even introduced legislation this year at the Statehouse to require presidential candidates to submit their five most recent federal tax returns to state officials for public disclosure. That’s a worthwhile, if politically charged, proposal. It’s also worth considering whether Iowa’s other disclosure and conflict-of-interest policies for other offices need to be clarified and enhanced.

Candidates’ tax woes demonstrate a more fundamental problem in American politics. Few other controversies have demonstrated the naked hypocrisy of each major party. Partisan activists on all sides are willing to look the other way when their allies are the ones in the wrong.

Hubbell, Iowa Democrats’ de facto standard-bearer in 2018, has an opportunity to show he and his party are serious about transparency and good government. All he has to do is show us his tax returns.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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