Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed into law a measure requiring that any candidates for office in the state, including the President of the United States, must make public their tax returns for the last five years. Pres. Donald J. Trump (R) has resisted calls to release his tax returns. On Monday, Judicial Watch sued California to block the law, which would prevent President Donald J. Trump (R) from being on the ballot in the nation’s most populous state.
U.S. Senate candidate, former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) told the Alabama Political Reporter that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that states can not add extra qualifications to those set in the Constitution.
“In U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995) the Supreme Court said states may
not impose qualifications for congressional candidates other than those specified in the Constitution,” Moore told APR. “The same would apply to Presidential candidates.”
“Article II of the Constitution requires that the President must be a natural born citizen, at least 35 years old, and a resident of the United States for 14 years,” Moore explained. “Any attempt by California to add to these qualifications is unconstitutional and will be struck down as invalid. We suggest that the State of California stop wasting its taxpayers’ money on frivolous matters like this.”
Judicial Watch earlier in the day had filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four California voters to prevent the California secretary of state from implementing a new state law requiring all presidential candidates who wish to appear on California’s primary ballot to publicly disclose their personal tax returns from the past five years.
Under the law, known as the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, candidates who do not publicly disclose their tax returns are barred from having their names printed on California’s primary ballots. Judicial Watch maintains that this is unconstitutional.
“California politicians, in their zeal to attack President Trump, passed a law that also unconstitutionally victimizes California voters,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is an obvious legal issue that a state can’t amend the U.S. Constitution by adding qualifications in order to run for president. The courts can’t stop this abusive law fast enough.”
Judicial Watch argues that SB 27 imposes candidate qualifications beyond those allowed by the U.S. Constitution and impermissibly burdens a voters’ expressive constitutional and statutory rights. The lawsuit claims violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Qualifications Clause, the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 1988. The suit alleges that the law unconstitutionally adds a new qualification for candidates for president. Judicial Watch’s clients include a registered Independent, Republican, and Democrat California voter.
Then-Governor Jerry Brown (D) vetoed a previous version of this law, because California’s Legislative Counsel concluded “would be unconstitutional if enacted.”
Governor Brown said at the time: “First, it may not be constitutional. Second, it sets a “slippery slope” precedent. Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power? A qualified candidate’s ability to appear on the ballot is fundamental to our democratic system. For that reason, I hesitate to start down a road that well might lead to an ever escalating set of differing state requirements for presidential candidates.”
Judicial Watch warned that unless SB 27 is enjoined, states will assume the power to create their own qualifications for national candidates seeking to obtain a party’s nomination for president. This could lead to as many as 50 distinct and possibly inconsistent sets of qualifications regarding the only national election in the United States. Using rationales similar to California’s, states might come to demand medical records, mental health records, sealed juvenile records, driving records, results of intelligence, aptitude, or personality tests, college applications, Amazon purchases, Google search histories, browsing histories, or Facebook friends.
Roy Moore is running for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D). The major party primary is on March 3.