Memo: Tax Returns and Transparency

Memorandum

To: Interested Parties

From: Peter Kauffmann, Senior Advisor to the NYSDC

Subject: Tax Returns & Transparency

The release of income tax returns is a longstanding practice for statewide candidates in New York. This basic measure of transparency has been standard for candidates going back decades.  There is one candidate for governor of New York, however, who has not met this minimum threshold of transparency. Although he has served as Westchester County Executive for five years and has been officially running for governor for six months, Rob Astorino has never released his tax returns.

Releasing tax returns is standard practice for legitimate Republican candidates for governor.  New York’s last Republican Governor, George Pataki, released five years of tax returns when he ran for governor in 1994.

This issue is of critical relevance to Astorino because there are so many unanswered questions about his outside income. While he has filed required county disclosure statements, these forms do not provide much insight into exactly how much Astorino was paid by outside interests, what he did to earn that money, or whether or not his outside work interfered with his duties as County Executive.  In addition, Astorino appears to be in violation of the law for not having his outside income reviewed by the County Ethics Board as required.

Astorino’s disclosure statements show that he drew salary from two outside employers, one of which had a $3.8 million contract awarded by Westchester County. He has refused to detail what he did to earn $30,000 for a side job with Connecticut-based Townsquare Media. Local elected officials have also raised questions about whether or not Astorino is in violation of the county charter for not serving in a full time capacity.

Democratic elected officials have consistently released their income tax returns. Governor Andrew Cuomo has released his returns every year as Attorney General and Governor. Senator Charles Schumer has released his returns and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has released her returns dating back to her first term in Congress. Lieutenant Governor Bob DuffyAttorney General Eric Schneiderman, and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli have all released their returns. Governor Mario Cuomo released his returns every year he served in public office, including during his time as Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State.

The people of New York believe in transparency in government, which is why they expect elected officials to release their personal taxes. There is no reason why Astorino cannot do the same. The only remaining question is: when will Rob Astorino release his tax returns?