Texas Watchdog has asked the mayoral candidates for their IRS tax returns for the last three years.
Our email this morning to the campaigns of Annise Parker and Gene Locke asks:
As part of our ongoing efforts to promote government transparency, Texas Watchdog asks that you release to us three years' worth of your household's Internal Revenue Service income tax returns.
We are asking that you release returns covering both yourself and your spouse/partner.
We are making this request to both the mayoral runoff contenders, and we intend to report publicly that we have made this request of both of you.
Thank you, and congratulations on making the runoff.
At the federal level, requests for candidates' tax returns are standard and often used as leverage by one camp on the other.
But more and more, this is being asked of statewide and local candidates. With so much at stake, why shouldn't this information be made public?
Voters looking at the financial information of candidates can get a better look at possible conflicts of interest and see how candidates about to manage a city's finances managed their own.
Look at the mayoral election in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where a candidate challenged her opponent to release his federal tax forms, saying that all major office seekers should consider making their tax returns public.
"Today, more than ever, elected officials must provide citizens with the highest levels of openness and transparency," the candidate, Elaine Pluta, told the regional newspaper.
Perhaps it was some grandstanding, but if it was, it worked; Pluta won 4,794 to 3,245.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mayor Martin Chavez challenged his opponent, Richard Berry, to release his tax forms this fall. Berry declined, stating "This is not required by law and Berry's family members are not running for mayor, therefore he will not subject his family to this invasion of privacy by releasing their personal information."
He goes by Mayor Berry now.
Closer to home, the Associated Press' Jay Root lifted the veil on the financial dealings of both Gov. Rick Perry and United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison by looking at their tax returns. Perry, fighting to keep his job as governor, and Hutchison, vying to take his place, voluntarily released their tax returns.
Openness and transparency are parts of a whole that determine a winner, but the very public office of mayor of the city of Houston deserves a fully examined occupant.
We look forward to hearing from the campaigns of Gene Locke and Annise Parker.