‘Sneak Peek’ at tax returns for journalists is not disclosure

New Jersey journalists have once again fallen for the faux-disclosure of Governor Phil Murphy, who allowed reporters a few hours to examine hundreds of pages describing his vast investment portfolio along with copies of his state and federal tax returns.

Murphy makes most of his money from stock investments, which include holdings in domestic and foreign companies — from Bermuda to Shanghai.

“The ‘sneak peek’ at state and federal tax returns that was invented by Cory Booker & Phil Murphy is not disclosure,” said Lisa McCormick, a progressive corruption-fighter who urged journalists to “call them out for being frauds.”

The Governor and his wife, First Lady Tammy Murphy, paid about $185,000 in property taxes last year on their mansion on the Navesink River in Middletown, but most salient details were hidden in plain sight as

Murphy and his wife paid $1.79 million in state and federal taxes in 2021 and they donated almost $700,000, according to a tax-return summary his office released.

The country’s most ethical politicians have been comfortable to show their earnings and the amount of tax they paid but Cory Booker came up with a false display of transparency when he invited reporters to examine his financial records in a sealed environment and journalists failed to recognize they were being had.

Murphy, a 65-year-old multimillionaire former Wall Street executive, gave journalists four hours to comb through the 2021 tax returns that he and his wife file jointly

The examination took place at his office in Trenton and reporters were not allowed to make copies or pursue questions about voluminous details.

“They didn’t let us take the sheets home, so I just wrote down the names I could. There were hundreds,” said one reporter about the stocks owned by Murphy.

Hundreds of pages filled “a binder bigger than many college math textbooks,” detailing Murphy’s extensive investment portfolio, which includes stocks in hundreds of companies, from Apple to Delta to Verizon.

Murphy, a 65-year-old Democrat, is a retired senior director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. with a vast investment portfolio. For 2021, the couple reported federal taxable income of $4.95 million and an effective tax rate of 36%.

Murphy’s antics are parallell to those of President Donald Trump, who repeatedly broke his vague promises to release his tax returns while claiming a federal audit was preventing him from doing so, even as he asked the Supreme Court to stop a congressional committee from accessing his tax records.

The Supreme Court today rejected an emergency appeal from Trump seeking to shield his tax returns from House Democrats, capping a multiyear legal battle and paving the way for the release of his tax returns.

The order — which had no noted dissents — was in response to an appeal Trump filed with the Supreme Court late last month after a lower court declined to reverse its ruling mandating that he turn over his tax records to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Chief Justice John Roberts had temporarily blocked their release in a Nov. 1 order while the court considered the matter.

Tax returns are confidential under federal law, but there are some exceptions, one of which allows the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to request them.

Trump, unlike all other presidents who followed Richard Nixon, refused to make his tax returns public amid scrutiny of his business affairs, and turned to the justices after an appeals court in Washington refused to intervene on the release of the records. The high court has recently rejected similar requests made by Trump.

The House Ways and Means Committee has since 2019, sought Trump’s records covering the years 2015 through 2020 seeking to evaluate how the Internal Revenue Service audits presidential returns. When Republicans assume leadership in January, the fight for Trump’s tax returns will likely come to an end.

Democrats were stonewalled by Trump’s Treasury Department, leading the House committee to sue. A stream of legal battles has been fought since, concluding with the Supreme Court granting Trump a last-minute stoppage in November.

The tax records cover the years 2015 through 2020. Trump for years has sought to keep his records private.

Trump is the only president in the last 40 years to not release his taxes. The documents have been sought after by legislators and voters since he first announced his run for the White House in 2015. The former president has long argued that the effort to acquire his taxes is a part of a politically motivated plot against him.

Rishi Sunak pledged to release his tax records within a year, the first UK prime minister to do so since 2016.

While he was a Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful in 2013, Newark Mayor Cory Booker made a gesture of transparency by sharing with reporters records showing that he earned nearly $4 million from various endeavors over the previous 15 years, including an average income of $577,000 in each of the past three years.

The Booker campaign refused to allow reporters to photograph any of the 15 years worth of financial documents or remove them from a conference room at Newark’s Robert Treat Hotel, where they were distributed on a Friday afternoon and collected three hours later.

The stunt is now emulated by Murphy, whose vast holdings are impossible to fully explore and understand in the compressed period of time.

A distracted and hyper partisan public never punished Booker, Murphy or Trump, proving that the cost of denying full disclosure—by flatly refusing to release information or presenting complex details in an inscrutable fashion—is not as great as the political price of revealing ownership interests in tobacco companies, fossil fuel corporations and other unscrupulous enterprises.

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