Hey Congress, Where Are Your Tax Returns?


"Do as I say, not as I do."

So as everybody jumps down Mitt Romney's throat for not releasing more than a couple of years' worth of tax returns, McClatchy finds Congress members reluctant to provide even their most recent records:

Rep. Nancy Pelosi was emphatic. Mitt Romney's refusal to release more than two years of his personal tax returns, she said, makes him unfit to win confirmation as a member of the president's Cabinet, let alone to hold the high office himself.

Sen. Harry Reid went farther: Romney's refusal to make public more of his tax records makes him unfit to be a dogcatcher.

They do not, however, think that standard of transparency should apply to them. The two Democratic leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives are among hundreds of senators and representatives from both parties who refused to release their tax records. Just 17 out of the 535 members of Congress released their most recent tax forms or provided some similar documentation of their tax liabilities in response to requests from McClatchy over the last three months. Another 19 replied that they wouldn't release the information, and the remainder never responded to the query.

Congress members have to file disclosure reports, but the information lacks much of the detail provided by tax records. Nevertheless, when challenged, Congress members scurried quickly to the familiar "No, it's different with us because …" excuse used to try to wriggle out of a hypocritical position that exists for the purpose of achieving political points rather than taking an actual moral or ethical stand:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, also has harangued Romney for refusing to release more tax returns, calling it a "penchant for secrecy."

All three refused repeated requests from McClatchy to release their own returns, requests that started before the flap over Romney's records.

Pelosi aides refused, saying she's disclosed all that Congress requires.

"The leader has filed a complete financial disclosure report as required by law that includes financial holdings, transactions and other personal information," Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said. "There has been no question about where Leader Pelosi and Democrats stand on tax policy: We must extend the middle-class tax cuts and end tax breaks for millionaires and use the revenues to pay down the deficit."

Challenged at a recent news conference to release hers, Wasserman Schultz said she wouldn't because she wasn't running for president. "I file full financial disclosure required under the law," she said.

So Romney isn't breaking any laws, but he should release more tax records because of transparency, but Congress members shouldn't because the law doesn't require it? Romney was critcized when he complained that the tax records would be used for opposition research, but it's fairly apparent now it's the only reason people want to see them.