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.


Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. He has been President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the Metro Democratic Club, and has served on the Democratic Party Executive Committee in Louisville. He began blogging in 2004, and currently operates two personal blogs (BruceMaples.com and brucewriter.com). He founded Forward Kentucky in the wake of the state elections in 2015, and expanded it in the summer of 2016. He has lived in Louisville since 1992 with his wife and two sons.
  • I disagree on the need for him to release his tax returns. You assumed, as I do, the inherited wealth of Augusta is going to be the bulk of the information it would reveal. With Gill, there is no curiosity of mine surrounding how much that is, nor what she did with it. I know enough about their background, their charitable history, their progressive involvement ,etc. that delving into how much Brown Foreman stock or money has transferred to her will not help me decide anything, and can only help the opponent, who has a history of hedge fund involvement and lack of disclosure of anything. As far as tax returns disclosed, let the incumbent governor with the problem with disclosure about everything go first, then pick on Gill afterwards, but even then I believe the public history of Gill and Augusta speaks louder than a tax return about inheritence, which according to what is known about them has been used for good conscientious purposes that I am sure they are proud of and I admire also.

    • Absolutely agree about the good work of both the Brown family and of Gill Holland. Frankly, Gill is one of my favorite people (from what I know of him), and I think he has had a major influence on making Louisville a better city.

      Nevertheless, I thought it was a “muffed punt” to draw that line in the sand so close to the beginning of the campaign. He and the campaign would have been much better served to say “I am happy to release my returns as soon as Governor Bevin releases his. In fact, Adam and I are glad to do it at the same time and in the same place, just to keep things transparent.”

      The point of releasing tax returns is to show the citizens where you might have conflicts of interest, and to build trust (as I said). Governor Bevin deserves every bit of opprobrium he has received for not releasing his, especially with his background and ongoing involvement in hedge funds. I don’t want to see the Edelen-Holland campaign put themselves in the same place.