Outrage over tax returns a replay of past campaigns
1988: George H.W. Bush vs. Michael Dukakis
"Bob Dole and Vice President George H.W. Bush have been sparring over their relative wealth," the Los Angeles Times wrote in January 1988, referring to a broader debate about personal wealth that lead to a contest over who was more transparent with their personal finances. Bush released 14 years of returns, including the eight years he was vice president, and called on Dole to do the same. Dole upped the ante and released 21 years of returns.
Because Mr. Bush released his tax returns during the primary, the onus was on Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis to release his returns. An editorial in the Washington Post called on Dukakis to release his most recent return. "Voters have a right to know how a candidate has been making his living, what financial assets and liabilities he has and whether he has been meeting his obligations to pay taxes," The Post wrote. "Michael Dukakis has been a stickler for disclosure and for this campaign has made public his income tax returns for every year from 1982 to 1986. He has not yet, however, made public his 1987 return; he should do so."
Less than a week after that editorial, the former Massachusetts governor did. He and his wife Kitty had less to show than most presidential candidates, making a combined income of $109,000.
1984: Walter Mondale vs. President Ronald Reagan
Democratic candidate Walter Mondale faced criticism over the taxes his running mate's husband. His vice presidential pick, Geraldine Ferraro, had a wealthy husband, John Zaccaro, who refused to release his tax returns. "I want full disclosure from all those over where I have responsibility. Mr. Zaccaro has his own business life which he is entitled to lead. He is complying with the law," Mondale said on ABC News in August 1984. "Senior advisers are now clearly worried that the tax return controversy is taking on a life of its own," ABC reported.
"I am the candidate. ... My husband is not a candidate," Ferraro said, according to The Miami Herald.
But Republicans didn't buy it. "The question really is what is Walter Mondale going to do about it," Republican Party chair Trent Lott said.
Shortly after these reports, Ferraro and her husband eventually released six years of their personal income tax returns, though Zaccaro didn't release some business-related income tax returns.
1980: Ronald Reagan vs. Jimmy Carter
His campaign's reason for releasing them: "[B]ecause he will be the Republican (presidential) nominee and, as a candidate, he feels it is appropriate that he do so," Reagan press secretary Ed Gray said, according to a July 1980 Associated Press article.
One interesting aspect of his tax return is that despite receiving publicly-funded matching funds, Reagan did not check the box on his IRS form that contributed $1 to the federal general election fund.
According to a separate Associated Press report, Reagan experienced "one of the most embarrassing incidents of his career" after his 1970 tax returns were released to the press. The reason? The millionaire former actor and governor, worth up to $4 million, paid no state taxes because of business losses and tax shelters.
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