Should the spouse of a presidential candidate be expected to disclose his or her tax returns if the couple files separately? Thatâ€™s the question now that Cindy McCain has declared she will never make her tax returns public. Opponents of John McCain are already criticizing this move but Mrs. McCain says itâ€™s a matter of privacy.
A natural impulse might be to ask â€œwhat is she hiding?â€ But thatâ€™s a slippery slope of an impulse. We canâ€™t assume anyone who wants privacy has something seedy to hide. Then again, the McCainâ€™s have to know that such a refusal will raise questions. Wouldnâ€™t it be easier just to release her returns?
Personally, Iâ€™m o.k. with her keeping her tax returns secret. Sheâ€™s always filed separately from her husband and has business and family financial interests that have little or nothing to do with John McCainâ€™s public career. Even though she is now a â€œpublic figure,â€ I donâ€™t think the need for transparency in government should require her to disclose financial matters that sheâ€™s always kept separate from her husband. We arenâ€™t electing Cindy McCain and unless there are convincing allegations that John McCain has been using his wifeâ€™s finances to funnel illegal campaign contributions, I think we should respect the womanâ€™s choice to keep her tax return private.