Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush will release more than three decades of personal tax returns on his website this afternoon, according to his campaign.
The disclosure of 33 years of tax returns will set a new record for transparency – former Senator Bob Dole released 30 years of tax returns during his presidential run in 1996 – and could be part of a plan to both distinguish the former governor of Florida from Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and respond to a growing chorus questioning Mr. Bush's decades-long business record.
The personal tax returns will include those from before and after his two terms as Florida governor.
Allie Brandenburger, spokeswoman for the Bush campaign, told the Associated Press that the decision “is consistent with the high level of disclosure he has practiced during his life in public office.”
The commitment to transparency is also meant to directly contrast Bush from former Secretary of State Clinton. She hasn’t released her personal tax returns, instead only filing the financial disclosure form presidential candidates are required to submit to the Federal Election Commission, a less precise record of income. Clinton has also been dogged by criticism of her transparency and honesty after it was discovered that she kept a personal email account during her time in charge of the State Department.
Yet Bush – the son of former president George H.W. Bush, and the brother of former president George W. Bush – may also be trying to dispel a cloud of mistrust around his business record that has been growing for decades. Bush worked for many years in the private sector both before and after his governorship. He gave up his positions in business ventures and on groups’ boards late last year and earlier this year, according to CNN, but questions over decades of business deals still hang over him.
A Washington Post investigation into three decades of Bush’s business dealings, published last weekend, found that he often benefited form his family connections and “repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk.”
Five of his business associates have been convicted of crimes, and one remains an international fugitive, the Post reported on Sunday. Bush said that in each case he had no knowledge of any illegal activity and said that some associates took advantage of his naiveté early in his business career, mistakes he says he has learned from over the decades.
Kristy Campbell, a Bush spokeswoman, told the Post, “He has always operated with the highest level of integrity throughout his business career.”
GOP candidate Mitt Romney, who himself has faced questions about his business record while running for president, was criticized for only releasing two years of personal tax returns. Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona did the same when he was the GOP candidate in 2008, and President Obama released seven years of returns, according to Fox News.
The former governor’s decision also comes after questions over his campaign fundraising prior to formally announcing his candidacy. Bush told a group of top donors in April that he had raised more money in the first 100 days of a possible run than any Republican ever, though the political action committee that did the bulk of that fundraising went “on autopilot” the moment Bush officially announced his candidacy.
Bush’s disclosure also comes as the crowded Republican field for president is set to max-out at 16. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is expected to announce his candidacy on July 13, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to join the race on July 21, Fox News reported.
The timing of the release could also be aiming to undercut another prominent Republican’s announcement of his presidential candidacy.
Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, announces his candidacy Tuesday and has been a popular, albeit scandal-plagued, Republican leader for years.
This isn’t the first time Bush has tried to steal the thunder from another Republican’s presidential announcement, according to Fox News. When Texas Gov. Rick Perry officially launched his campaign in early June, Bush revealed the date and time of his own campaign announcement.