Senate Democrats seek rule change forcing Trump Cabinet to turn over tax returns

A group of Senate Democrats are urging a rule change in Congress’ upper chamber which would require President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees to relinquish their tax returns to all Senate committees.

On the vanguard of the effort to change the rules are Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Implying Trump cabinet selections resemble those found in the Gilded Age, the trio of Democrats told reporters in early December their only concern is potential conflict of interest.

“We’ve never before seen a Cabinet like this that’s made up of so many wealthy insiders and big money interests,” said Stabenow.

Under current Senate rules, committees on Finance, Budget, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs require nominees to turn over tax information.  The threesome of Democrats are seeking a change in which an expanded number of committees could obtain a nominee’s tax documents.

The senators announced that they would propose the reform in January 2017 when the 115th Congress begins their first legislative session.

Mr. Trump, a New York businessman who accumulated his wealth in commercial real estate, has an estimated net worth of $3.7 billion.

Wilbur Ross, Trump’s choice to lead the Commerce Department, is believed to have a net $2.5 billion in assets earned through his banking and investment career and is among the wealthiest of potential cabinet members.

Joining Ross at Commerce as deputy, Nebraska native Todd Ricketts, son of TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, is thought to be worth $1.8 billion.

Similarly, Trump’s pick the lead the Treasury Department, Steve Mnuchin, an investment banker and hedge fund investor who also served as the Trump campaign’s finance director, is estimated to have a personal wealth exceeding $100 million.

It is, however, Betsy DeVos, wife of former Amway executive Dick Devos, and Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Education, with the largest known personal wealth valued at over $5 billion.

Rejecting calls for a rule change was Republican Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who, pointing out the Finance Committee he chairs currently has the latitude to ask for tax documents, found their demand unneeded.

“We don’t need to do that.  Let’s face it. We’re talking about leading the world financially. We expect to get materials because we don’t want to make any mistakes, nor do we want to feel bad that we made a mistake,” Hatch told reporters.

Trump himself has refused to turn over his personal tax returns citing an IRS audit that is still pending, making him the first major party presidential nominee not to do so since Richard Nixon in 1972.

 

[Roll Call] [Fortune] [Huffington Post] [Photo courtesy Mark Wilson/Getty Images]