Sweet column: Clinton stalling on tax returns.

SHARE Sweet column: Clinton stalling on tax returns.
SHARE Sweet column: Clinton stalling on tax returns.

WASHINGTON — In the wake of failing to stop Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the Tuesday contests — and to deflect attention away from former pal Tony Rezko on trial for public corruption — the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is stepping up calls for Clinton to disclose her income tax returns.

Clinton has been stalling, pleading that she needed time to get her papers together, as if the matter is just the return she will file in 2008 for income from 2007. Obama seized on it as an issue after Clinton’s wealth got notice when she loaned $5 million to her campaign.

Clinton has been stalling, pleading that she needed time to get her papers together, as if the matter is just the return she will file in 2008 for income from 2007. Obama seized on it as an issue after Clinton’s wealth got notice when she loaned $5 million to her campaign.

Coupled with this is the matter of whether or not Clinton could be doing more to release her first lady papers stored in the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Clinton pleads that she does not control when the papers can be processed and released. But that argument doesn’t hold when it comes to tax returns. She can just copy what she and Bill Clinton filed for 2006 return — and prior years and hand it out.

Click to enlarge image Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., during an election night rally on Tuesday in Texas.

(AP)

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Coupled with this is the matter of whether or not Clinton could be doing more to release her first lady papers stored in the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Clinton pleads that she does not control when the papers can be processed and released. But that argument doesn’t hold when it comes to tax returns. She can just copy what she and Bill Clinton filed for 2006 return — and prior years and hand it out.

Watch for Obama, who put out his returns since 2004, to push the point. “She has made the argument that she is thoroughly vetted, in contrast to me. I think it’s important to examine that argument, because if the suggestion that somehow that on issues of ethics or disclosure or transparency, that somehow she’s going to have a better record than I have, and will be better able to withstand Republican attacks, I think then that’s an issue that should be tested,” he said Wednesday while flying back to Chicago from San Antonio for a day off the campaign trail.

Throwing a spotlight on Clinton’s lack of transparency on taxes however, does not abrogate that Obama still has a list of outstanding items about his relationship with Rezko that needs further explanation. What Clinton does or does not disclose can’t be used as an excuse by Obama, who is making transparency an issue. He either has a standard or he is making tactical decisions.

“Faced with many legitimate questions about Senator Obama’s long-time relationship with indicted political fixer Tony Rezko, the Obama campaign has chosen to lash out at Senator Clinton,” said Howard Wolfson, Clinton communication chief.

He said, “Their tax returns since they left the White House will be made available on or around April 15.”

“On or about” gives Clinton some wiggle room, but certainly leaves the impression her returns will be released before the crucial primary vote in Pennsylvania; if anything in the returns raises questions about Bill Clinton’s post-presidential business affairs, it could impact the closing days of what is going to be a heated contest.

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