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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Kirsten Gillibrand releases tax returns as a challenge to Trump and other Democrats

Sen­a­tor Kirsten Gilli­brand of New York has pub­lished twelve years of her tax returns as part of her cam­paign to become the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee for Pres­i­dent. The returns, which can be found through a link to her Sen­ate web page, are a direct chal­lenge to her rival Democ­rats and to the President.

Kirsten Gillibrand at an AFGE event

Kirsten Gilli­brand at an AFGE event (Repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Gilli­brand has become the first nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent to release her tax returns for 2018, say­ing to CNN’s Alisyn Camero­ta that “it allows peo­ple to know you’re work­ing for them and nobody else.”

She closed a video on her cam­paign web­site by ask­ing vot­ers to join her in call­ing on all the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees to fol­low her example.

Eliz­a­beth War­ren has already released ten years of her tax returns as part of an anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign she took part in last year, before offi­cial­ly decid­ing to run for pres­i­dent (though she has not yet released her 2018 returns).

Bernie Sanders has been chal­lenged on the issue, and he has promised to release ten years of returns, but has yet to ful­fill that promise or pro­vide a timetable for it. At a CNN town hall, he said: “It just was a mechan­i­cal issue. We don’t have accoun­tants at home. My wife does most of it and we will get that stuff out.”

Pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees have been releas­ing their tax returns to the pub­lic since the 1970s, but the issue took on spe­cial rel­e­vance in 2016 when Don­ald Trump shirked tra­di­tion and refused to release his returns. Even in the White House, he has refused to release any­thing, lead­ing to ram­pant spec­u­la­tion about the pos­si­bly cor­rupt (let’s face it, almost cer­tain­ly cor­rupt) nature of his finan­cial dealings.

Gillibrand’s move is part of a broad­er cam­paign strat­e­gy to become the anti-Trump can­di­date. Last week­end, she spoke to sup­port­ers in New York in front of the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel, lam­bast­ing the build­ing as “a shrine to greed, divi­sion and van­i­ty” and the pres­i­dent for “tear­ing apart the moral fab­ric of our country.”

Gilli­brand has strug­gled to stand out among the crowd­ed field of Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­tenders, only man­ag­ing around 1% in polls.

One way that low­er-pro­file can­di­dates can stand out in a field that includes big-hit­ters like Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden (the cur­rent fron­trun­ners in the race accord­ing to polling) is to churn out social media hits. Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke have both ben­e­fit­ed from speech­es and town halls tak­ing off online.

One reli­able way to make an impact is to antag­o­nize Trump, who has a habit of post­ing vit­ri­olic tweets against those he per­ceives as polit­i­cal ene­mies, and – much like Richard Nixon’s “ene­mies list” – being includ­ed has become some­thing of an hon­or for the President’s opponents.

Accord­ing to Dan Sena, for­mer chair of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, Trump tweets served as “rock­et fuel” for many of the most suc­cess­ful can­di­dates in last year’s midterm elections.

Gilli­brand is per­fect­ly posi­tioned to raise Trump’s hackles.

As the junior Sen­a­tor from New York, she rep­re­sents Trump’s home­town – the epi­cen­ter of the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion and loca­tion of numer­ous Trump build­ings. Using Trump build­ings as a back­drop, the Sen­a­tor has con­trast­ed the President’s “cow­ardice” against her own cam­paign slo­gan, “Brave Wins.”

Gillibrand’s slo­gan is par­tic­u­lar­ly apt, because she was an ear­ly sup­port­er of the #MeToo move­ment, and turned heads by call­ing for Al Franken’s res­ig­na­tion, even when oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty lead­ers held back.

If she suc­ceeds in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial pri­maries, she will undoubt­ed­ly use her sup­port from #MeToo to annoy and chal­lenge Trump, who has been accused dozens of times of sex­u­al mis­con­duct and abuse.

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