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GOP Delegates Split on Trump's Taxes but Will Still Vote for Him

Posted on July 20, 2016 by Hoffman, William

Delegates to the Republican National Convention are divided over the importance of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's decision -- apparently seconded by his vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence -- not to release his federal income tax returns. But they'll vote for the ticket anyway.

The Trump-Pence ticket will be the first in modern history to have both the presidential and vice presidential nominees refusing to release their tax returns.

In interviews with Tax Analysts, some delegates said Trump's refusal avoids a trap laid for him by Democrats and the media, while others held out hope that he and Pence will make some kind of disclosure before the election. Neither candidate's campaign responded to requests for comment.

A Trump adviser said May 18 that the campaign would be asking potential vice presidential picks to submit their tax returns as part of the normal vetting process. The adviser also indicated that the vice presidential nominee's tax records would not be made public.

Herman Cain, former Godfather's Pizza CEO and 2012 GOP presidential candidate, told Tax Analysts he had no concerns about Trump and Pence's refusal to release their tax information.

"It would just be another source for people who are his critics . . . to nitpick things that they know nothing about," said Cain, who is not a 2016 GOP delegate.

"Most people have to hire professionals to do their taxes," Cain said. "Hire professionals! And you're going to release [Trump's and Pence's tax returns] to people who know nothing about accounting, and nothing about taxes, so they can take something out of context to create a distraction when he's trying to run for president and get elected."

GOP convention delegates were split on the importance of the GOP presidential candidates' disclosing their tax returns.

Randall Dunning, a delegate from Garland, Texas, said, "It gives me great concern. It lacks a certain amount of transparency that Republicans have always demanded of the Democrats. And I have to be blunt, even as a committeeman for the Republican Party of Texas, I cannot praise a Republican for doing that which I condemn a Democrat for doing."

"That would go for both men on the ticket," Dunning added.

Frank L. McNamara Jr., a delegate from Massachusetts, countered, "I am far less concerned about that than I am about [presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton] not releasing her medical records."

Nicholas Allman, a delegate from San Antonio, said he believes the Trump campaign has carefully considered the risks of releasing -- or not releasing -- the real estate mogul's tax returns.

"I think him and his team have done sort of an internal calculation," Allman said. "And I'm assuming they've decided, we'll take the bullet of people saying, 'Why didn't you release your tax returns?' over putting them out and letting [opponents] pour through pages and pages and pages of it to try and pick out stuff to attack him with. So I think it's a strategy."

Trump may simply delay the release as long as possible, Allman added, "and by the time anyone's even read the whole thing, the election will be over."

Narlina Duke, a delegate from Portland, Oregon, said, "I'm pretty sure I know why he hasn't released his tax returns.

"As he says, he likes to take advantage of everything that he can possibly take advantage of," Duke explained. "So I would be assuming that he's got a lot of tax deductions, and other things, and being rich, that would be insulting to a lot of the public."

"He gets a lot of [tax] credits," Duke said. "He probably doesn't pay anything."

Don Alexander, a delegate from southeast Kansas, said, "I'm sure he will" release his tax returns eventually.

If Trump didn't make that move, would it change anything? "In light of who he's running against, no," Alexander said. "If he was running against a moderate Democrat that had some good business ideas, and some good pro-growth ideas, and some good reform ideas, then it would maybe make a difference to me. But with running against Hillary, no. It wouldn't really matter to me."

Trump's Veep Vet

Until Trump settled on Pence as his running mate in the 2016 election, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were considered finalists for the position of Republican vice presidential nominee.

Gingrich noted recently that he was required to submit to the Trump campaign more than a decade's worth of tax returns -- the same documents that the Republican presidential nominee has said provide no useful information about a candidate.

"They wanted all my taxes back until 2004," Gingrich said of the Trump campaign during a July 14 event streamed on Facebook, during which he described the vice presidential selection process. "That was a mound, just a whole stack of tax material," he said.

Trump has resisted calls to release his tax returns throughout the presidential campaign, typically citing an ongoing IRS audit as the reason. He has said on several occasions that he would release his tax returns once the audit was complete, even if that did not happen until after the November election.

The Republican nominee has also denied that there is anything of value in his tax returns. "There's nothing to learn from them," Trump told the Associated Press in a May interview. He also told ABC News in a May 13 interview, "It's none of your business," when asked what tax rate he paid.

Neither presidential nor vice presidential candidates are required by law to release their tax returns, but every major party presidential candidate since 1976, with the exception of Gerald Ford, has released their tax returns.

The Republican vice presidential candidates in the 2008 and 2012 elections, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., respectively, released their tax returns, as did Vice President Joe Biden.

Pence has submitted a financial disclosure statement with the Indiana Office of Inspector General, but the brief document provides few details on the Indiana governor's finances. Likewise, the financial disclosures submitted during Pence's 12-year tenure in Congress do not contain the detailed information a tax return would.

Dunning said he would encourage Trump to release his tax returns in order to "take that issue off the table and take it off the table now."

That virtually all other presidential candidates since the 1970s have released their tax returns doesn't persuade Thomas Tuck, a delegate from Belgrade, Montana.

"That's nice. But so what?" Tuck said. "Has Hillary released all the information about the Clinton Foundation, and the millions and millions and millions of dollars that came in from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait? There's a lot of stuff going on on the other side that has been hidden.

"I don't have a problem with Donald Trump, whether he releases or doesn't release his tax [returns]," Tuck said. "That doesn't matter to me."