In a “kitchen sink” conference call this morning, the Clinton campaign argued that Barack Obama is not as transparent as he says he is, delivered a statement on John McCain’s economic policy, and then tried to adjust expectations for the Pennsylvania primary, which Hillary Clinton was always expected to win comfortably. (“If [Obama] fails to win in Pennsylvania, it will be a significant defeat for him,” said Howard Wolfson).
Then they opened the call. The first questions came from Jeff Toobin, who referenced the negative ad the Clinton campaign released today and asked, “I wonder if there’s any concern at all in the Clinton campaign whether this is a death spiral that will begin to damage the party?”
“Well first, I appreciate the question,” Wolfson said. “I think I would take some issue with the facts as presented.”
The Clinton campaign continues to argue that Obama does not live up to the standards he sets for others, and shortly after the call they released a statement saying that Obama has not released his tax returns from 1997, 1998, and 1999—the time he was a state senator in Illinois—even though his campaign has criticized Clinton for her reluctance to make all her records available. Obama, who has made transparency a theme of his campaign, has said he has lost his legislative records that time.
The Clintons are coming, of necessity, from a defensive position on the transparency issue. While they have released decades of tax returns, they have not yet made available the 2007 returns that many reporters are interested in. And the donors to Bill Clinton’s presidential library remain unknown.
So the Clinton argument isn’t really that they are perfect about transparency, but that Obama isn’t, either. As the campaign says in the statement “When it comes to transparency, the only thing transparent about Senator Obama is his claim to be transparent.”
To: Interested Parties
From: The Clinton Campaign
Date: April 15, 2008
RE: Tax Day Test: Is Sen. Obama As Transparent As He Claims?
For all of Sen. Obama’s rhetoric about the need for tax return transparency, you’d think he’d have released all of his tax records. Guess again.
For weeks, Sen. Obama and his campaign relentlessly demanded that Hillary release all of her tax returns even though 20-years of them were already publicly available. His campaign held an endless string of conference calls, issued press releases and flooded the airwaves with surrogates attacking Hillary for not immediately releasing the returns for the last few years she has been in public life.
Sen. Obama said the American people “deserve to know where you get your income from,” stressing the need for “full transparency” and bragging that his campaign has “set the bar.”
Well, Hillary released tax returns earlier this month and is now the only candidate in this race who has made thirty years worth of tax returns public.
But despite his rhetoric, Sen. Obama doesn’t abide by the standards he sets for others.
Sen. Obama has refused to release his tax returns for 1997, 1998 and 1999, even though he was in public life as a state senator during those years. During this period of time, Sen. Obama was accepting contributions from special interest lobbyists, PACs and even directly from corporations.
In fact, Sen. Obama has a habit of demanding higher standards of transparency for others than for himself. The National Archives has released hundreds of thousands of pages of documents from Hillary’s years as first lady, including her entire schedule. Throughout the campaign, Sen. Obama has demanded Hillary release more documents, even though they are not under her control. Meanwhile, Sen. Obama refuses to release any documents that are more than three years old. At first, Sen. Obama and his campaign told the press that he had records from his state senate years. Later, he said he threw them all out.
Whether it’s tax returns or legislative records or his relationship with indicted political fixer Tony Rezko, Senator Obama seems to take “the dog ate my homework” approach to disclosure.
When it comes to transparency, the only thing transparent about Senator Obama is his claim to be transparent.