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With Trump, the more he tells us, the less we know

Adam Allington Aug 23, 2016
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Presidential candidates are required by law to disclose their personal finances; but it’s safe to say these disclosure filings were not designed with candidates like Donald Trump in mind.
DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images

Presidential candidates here in the United States are required to disclose the sources of their income to the FEC. That doesn’t mean however that we get a full picture of their total wealth. Never has this been truer than with a candidate like Donald Trump.

Trump has a stake in over 540 separate entities, everything from golf courses to hotels, to vineyards, even a modeling agency. That is according to a 104-page personal financial disclosure form.

What the form doesn’t tell us how however, is how much money Trump actually made, or how much he is worth.

“That’s because the purpose of these forms is not to show net-worth at all,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. What the forms are intended to do is flag potential conflicts of interest.

“Like LLCs and corporations that manage the Trump trademark, and the value of those entities is really tough to ascertain unless it actually gets put up for sale,” Krumholz said.

In other words, she said, a list of assets doesn’t really tell you how these businesses are run, or what the balance sheet looks like.

“His holdings are very complex and the form is not,” said Rob Kelner.

Kelner is the Chair of election and political law at the law firm Covington and Burling in Washington D.C.  

“The form was intended to deal with your average candidate who had some mutual funds and maybe even some money in a hedge fund,” Kelner said.

A better way to insure transparency, would be to continue to require candidates to file financial disclosures—which is a law— but also make them disclose their tax returns—which is a precedent, but not a law.

Trump hasn’t released his tax return, citing an IRS audit. He’s the only candidate who’s refused to do so, since Richard Nixon.

 

 

 

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