Bernie Sanders offers no clear timeline for release of tax returns


That is the response Sen. Bernie Sanders and his presidential campaign have repeatedly offered in response to questions about when he will release his personal tax returns.

“Sooner than later” is what Sanders told Wolf Blitzer at a CNN town hall in February, just a few days after he launched his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ 2020 campaign manager, told reporters about the same during a briefing last month.

Sanders has yet to release his tax returns, and his campaign has not explained the process in any more precise detail, even as Sanders has repeatedly said that there is nothing revelatory or interesting about his financial situation. But the pressure to disclose is mounting as his Democratic primary opponents begin to release their own. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has put out a decade of returns and has challenged other candidates to do the same.

“I put the past 10 years of my federal tax returns online,” Warren tweeted on February 13, shortly before Sanders entered the race. “And now I’m calling on every other candidate for President to do exactly the same thing.” She has also posted an online petition calling “on everyone running for president to release their tax returns.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was the first Democratic contender to release her 2018 tax return and had previously released prior years’ returns. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee have also disclosed their returns.

Others have yet to follow suit, but Sanders, as his critics often note, had a head start: this is his second presidential primary run. The questions surrounding his taxes are hardly new. And at a political moment when transparency has become a paramount issue for Democrats, prompted in part by President Donald Trump’s refusal to release his own tax records, Sanders’ hesitance has the potential to trip up his front-running candidacy.

On Sunday, Sanders said on CBS’ Face the Nation that the documents would be made public and suggested that his campaign was simply putting on the finishing touches.

“Yeah, we will. I mean, we have it all done and it’s just a question of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” Sanders said. “Yes, we will, absolutely.”

Boring or not, the long wait has intensified the scrutiny, and fueled public and private speculation, into what the documents might show. During the 2016 campaign, Sanders promised that he would produce a fuller accounting of his taxes if he became the nominee. He ultimately fell short, but under pressure from Hillary Clinton, who published 30 years of returns, he would make public his 2014 taxes, which revealed he and his wife, Jane, earned a little more than $200,000 — almost all of it from Sanders’ Senate salary — and paid about $28,000 in federal taxes. They also collected about $46,000 in Social Security benefits. Jane Sanders reported collecting $4,900 as a commissioner with the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission.

Asked by CNN’s Blitzer in February about the hold-up at the town hall, Sanders parried again.

“Our tax returns will bore you to death. It’s simply — nothing special about them,” he said. “It just was a mechanical issue. We don’t have accountants at home. My wife does most of it. And we will get that stuff out.”

As of 2015, the Center for Responsive Politics ranked Sanders’ wealth at 77th out of 100 in the Senate, at a little more than $700,000. It’s unclear where precisely he stands now, given his heightened public standing in the aftermath of the 2016 campaign and new book royalties.

On Sunday, when pressed on the issue during his CBS interview, Sanders eventually pivoted to put pressure on Trump.

“And by the way, let me challenge President Trump to do the same,” he said. “Trust me, we do not have investments in Russia or Saudi Arabia or anyplace else. Yes, we will be releasing them.”

Sanders’ financial situation — now and in the past — fits with the more fully drawn personal story his campaign has shared during the first months of his second presidential bid.

“My experience as a child living in a family that struggled economically, powerfully influenced my life and my values,” Sanders said in Brooklyn last month during his first official campaign rally. “I know where I came from, and that is something I will never forget. Unlike Donald Trump, who shut down the government and left 800,000 federal employees without income to pay the bills, I know what it’s like to be in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck.”