Mrs. McCain's Refusal

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"IT WON'T DO." That was our bottom line in 1984 when Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, Democratic vice presidential candidate, balked at releasing her husband's income tax returns. Ms. Ferraro ultimately relented. It was our bottom line four years ago, when Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of the Democratic nominee, refused to release her returns; Ms. Kerry relented as well. And it is just as apt now with regard to Cindy McCain's tax returns.

For a candidate who puts a premium on transparency and ethics, John McCain has been slow and grudging in releasing tax information. He did not commit to doing so until after he had secured the nomination, and then he disclosed only two years of taxes, far less than his Democratic rivals. Mr. McCain's wife, the heir to a liquor and beer distributorship, declined to release her returns, citing -- as Ms. Heinz Kerry did -- her children's privacy. Releasing tax information entails intrusion, but, as we wrote four years ago, presidential candidates and their spouses "relinquish a significant measure of privacy. Meanwhile, tax returns provide information not contained in financial disclosure forms, such as charitable contributions and the use of tax shelters." For Mrs. McCain to say, as she did on NBC's "Today" show this week, that she would never release her tax returns, not even if she were to become first lady, is unacceptable. "This is a privacy issue," she said. "My husband is the candidate."

The candidate should get his wife to reconsider. The last thing the country needs in a new president is more secrecy.

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