Once again the only real question is how quickly the Roberts Court strikes this down.
President Trump will be ineligible for California’s primary ballot next year unless he discloses his tax returns under a state law that took effect immediately Tuesday, an unprecedented mandate that is almost certain to spark a high-profile court fight and might encourage other states to adopt their own unconventional rules for presidential candidates.
The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on the final day he could take action after it passed on a strict party-line vote in the Legislature earlier this month, requires all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings. They must do so by late November to secure a spot on California’s presidential primary ballot in March. State elections officials will post the financial documents online, although certain private information must first be redacted.
“As one of the largest economies in the world and home to one in nine Americans eligible to vote, California has a special responsibility to require this information of presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Newsom said in a statement that accompanied his signature on the bill. “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”
Trump, who is not singled out by the law but is clearly its inspiration, is likely to fight back.
“The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the president’s reelection campaign. “The bill also violates the 1st Amendment right of association, since California can’t tell political parties which candidates their members can or cannot vote for in a primary election.”
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Commitee, called the new law “gimmicky” and “just plain dumb.” And during legislative debates on the bill, GOP legislators repeatedly accused Democrats of being motivated solely by their anger at Trump.
“To continue to consistently be hostile, from this legislative body, to the president of the United States is just not something we should do,” state Senate Minority Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) said during a floor debate earlier this month. “Quit poking the bear.”
“We’re not poking the bear,” said the author of Senate Bill 27, state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg). “We’re doing what’s right.”
Although it would keep a candidate off the March primary ballot, the new law does not appear to block a candidate who refuses to disclose the information from appearing on the November 2020 statewide ballot. The law also requires candidates for governor to release their tax returns before the statewide primary, beginning in 2024.
Three outcomes then:
1) the law somehow survives and Trump refuses to disclose his info, setting off another court battle which he wins,
2) Trump refuses to disclose his info, is left off the primary, but is forced to be put on the November ballot, and
3) The Robrts Court strikes the whole thing and Trump refuses to disclose his taxes.
Note in all three cases we never see Trump's financial info, which is the point. The way to get that is through the Democrats in the House, and even they don't think they can win that battle. This state ballot law will never survive the courts.