Candidates for Gov. Won't Release Tax Returns

Sunday, Nov 29, 2009  |  Updated 1:30 PM CDT
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Andy McKenna (R) is running for Governor of Illinois, but says he won't release his tax returns unless all the other candidates do.

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While many Illinois politicians are rushing to reassure voters of their integrity, some candidates for governor have decided not to release their tax returns to the public, a practice that has become routine in major races.

Republicans Bill Brady and Bob Schillerstrom say they won't release their tax information. Fellow Republican Andy McKenna says he'll only give out the information if everyone else does. And Green Party candidate Rich Whitney says he leans toward withholding his returns, too.

Other Republican candidates told The Associated Press that they're willing to release their tax information. One, Adam Andrzejewski, has made disclosure a central theme of his campaign and posted his tax returns on his Web site. (He paid $29,773 in federal taxes for 2008.)

The major Democratic candidates, Dan Hynes and Pat Quinn, both promise to release their returns.

Candidates for Illinois governor usually release their tax returns, although not necessarily in the primary election.

Republicans Jim Edgar, George Ryan and Jim Ryan released the forms when they ran. So did Democrats Glenn Poshard and Rod Blagojevich.

Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said the tax forms give voters a better understanding of the candidates and possible problems.

"The underlying reason for all of this is to lay bare any potential conflict of interest which may exist. It's not just simply that the public has a right to be nosy," Canary said. "What we're trying to find out and understand is what kind of financial relationships exist."

She said that's especially relevant after the scandal that ended with Blagojevich being arrested and booted out of the governor's office. Voters deserve information that can help reassure them about a candidate's integrity, she said.

Schillerstrom, chairman of the DuPage County Board, said he doesn't see the value in releasing tax information.

"I feel strongly about full disclosure in government, but I do not believe posting my personal tax returns, or the tax returns of the other candidates for governor, would further the public interest in any tangible way. I have yet to hear anyone make a compelling argument how this would benefit voters," he replied to an Associated Press questionnaire.

Brady, a state senator and Bloomington real estate developer, cited business concerns as his reason for keeping the information private.

"As one of the owners in a family-operated business, I have to be cognizant of the effect of releasing my income tax returns can have on other people and the potential of providing competitors with confidential business plans and information," Brady said.

Those concerns didn't stop him from making his returns public in 2006, when Brady was one of three candidates for the Republican nomination for governor. Brady reported total income of $581,059 for the 2004 tax year.

Canary said she sympathizes with candidates' interest in withholding information that might somehow harm their business interests. She suggested it might be possible to release some information while withholding particularly sensitive details.

McKenna, chairman of Schwarz Supply Source, said he released his returns when he ran for Senate in 2004 and found that only his primary opponents were interested in them. "While I am open to releasing my returns during this campaign, I believe it is only appropriate if all other candidates agree to do so, as well," he said.

Whitney, of the Green Party, said releasing his returns would interfere with his wife's privacy without actually giving the voters any useful information about his integrity.

"It's time to stop looking at trendy gimmicks as a pathway to clean government, and time to look at the real public policies needed to establish it," Whitney said.

The AP questionnaire asked if the candidates would post their returns on the Internet. Hynes and Quinn did not answer this part of the question. In the past, Quinn has required people to visit his office to see his returns.

Several candidates noted they have filed a formal "statement of economic interests" with the state. These statements provide only limited information, such as ownership in any companies doing business with the state.

"It tends to be a fairly worthless document," Canary said.

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