Pundits hammer Democrats after Trump tax law thrown out

California Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye appeared incredulous in her decision about the law’s plain conflict with the California Constitution.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and fellow Democratic lawmakers have expressed no contrition for their failed attempt to force President Donald Trump to release five years of tax returns to gain access to the California ballot in the 2020 general election.

The California Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously that Senate Bill 27, signed by Newsom in July, violated the state Constitution. The opinion by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye at times had an incredulous tone, noting that advocates appeared unaware of SB27’s obvious conflict with Proposition 4. That’s a 1972 amendment to the California Constitution easily passed by state voters that requires presidential primaries must be open to all “recognized” candidates.

Further reflecting the state high court’s view that the law was frivolous, the unanimous verdict was delivered just 15 days after justices heard testimony in the case. Court watchers said that was highly unusual.

A federal judge had already ruled the law violated the U.S. Constitution in September. That decision was appealed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, but the appeal was dropped after the state Supreme Court’s ruling.

Nevertheless, a spokesman for Newsom continued to depict the now-void law as well-intentioned.

Jesse Melgar told the San Francisco Chronicle that the governor “would continue to urge all candidates to voluntarily release their tax returns. … Congress and other states can and should take action to require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.”

Padilla issued a statement expressing disappointment with the state high court’s decision but also declaring “the movement for greater transparency will endure. The history of our democracy is on the side of more transparency, not less.”

‘Ridiculous’ bill said to reflect ‘arrogance and hypocrisy’

Defenses of the law were scoffed at by opinion writers.

The Sacramento Bee editorial board – which had ripped SB27 as “silly and destructive” when Newsom signed it into law – wrote that the measure  “was so ridiculous and flawed that even California’s justices could barely conceal their disdain.” 

The Southern California Newspaper Group’s editorial noted that the state high court “quoted former Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a similar bill in 2017: ‘Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards?’

“Democratic lawmakers and a new governor refused to learn from that message. They tried again and embarrassed themselves. They richly deserved the court’s smackdown.”

The Los Angeles Times editorial board wrote that the tax-returns law “accomplished only one thing: giving Trump more ammunition against the state he loves to mock.”

Times columnist George Skelton was the harshest critic of all, noting that many of the Democrats who claimed the moral high ground in backing the tax-returns requirement were not transparent about their own finances.

“This is not about whether Trump should release his federal tax returns,” he wrote. “Rather, it’s about Democrats enacting a blatantly unconstitutional law with a straight face for purely political reasons. It’s about arrogance and hypocrisy.”

Part of SB27 that was reportedly included at Newsom’s behest remains intact. It’s the requirement that gubernatorial candidates provide five years of tax returns to qualify for the ballot beginning with the 2022 election.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. It passed in Senate on a 29-10 vote and in the Assembly on a 57-17 vote in early July.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

Related Articles

Californians exercise gun rights in Nevada

March 3, 2013 By John Seiler When the Soviet Union existed, Russians traveling to the free, capitalist West would pick

CalWatchdog Morning Read – September 14

Sales tax on tampons is here for another year Nearly 2/3 of Californians support November’s gun-control measure $2 billion bond

Ding, dong, tax bill is dead!

Sept. 1, 2012 Katy Grimes: The California Senate killed Assembly Speaker John Pérez’s AB 1500, which would have taxed out-of-state