I was surprised and disappointed when I saw that Gill Holland, running mate to Adam Edelen in the governor’s race, announced he would not be releasing his tax returns, when asked about it.
Not only was it a bad way to start a campaign (“let’s give our opponents something to attack us with!”). And not only was it distracting from the otherwise detailed and future-focused launch of the campaign.
It was also the wrong answer.
For years, we Dems have been slamming our current governor—he of hedge funds and partnerships and possible conflicts of interest—for not releasing his tax returns. And for years before that, candidates for Kentucky governor and lieutenant governor released their tax returns, every time.
But now we have a Democratic candidate taking the “my family’s privacy is too important” position as justification for not following precedent and for not letting voters know just where his bread is buttered.
Here’s the thing: We all know that Gill Holland is a Renaissance man, who does film projects, building projects, music projects, urban projects, and all sorts of other cool stuff. We all know he is married to Augusta Brown, of the Brown-Forman family, which probably means he (or they) could fund the Edelen-Holland campaign single-handedly. And we know that he has multiple business ventures underway, and probably is in a number of partnerships as a result of those ventures.
But guess what? It’s all “probably.” And “probably” leads to “possibly,” which leads to “wonder if” which leads to “I bet he is” – and THAT leads to investigative reporters trying to see if there is anything there.
Look, I get it. I’m not too sure I’d want to put my tax returns out there for everyone to see, with the reactions they might cause. (Mostly giggles, I would imagine.)
But when you run for office, that’s part of being a public servant. That’s part of transparency. That’s part of building trust with the people you serve.
It’s. Just. What. You. Do.
So, I would urge Gill Holland – and all the other candidates for state-wide office, INCLUDING Matt Bevin – to get over themselves and just post their tax returns for all to see. Do it together, in one press conference; make it a new Kentucky tradition. There will be a few days, or maybe a week, of comment and commentary and jokes and maybe even attacks. But after awhile, it will be old news, and people will have moved on.
But if you DON’T release them, it will never stop being news. Other candidates like Beshear/Coleman, who have already released their returns, will bring it up at every campaign stop, at every debate, and in every attack ad.
It was a bad way to start a campaign. It will be an ongoing drag on the campaign. And, it’s the wrong answer.