This Week in Conflicts: Voters Sue to Stop CA Law Requiring Release of Presidential Candidate’s Tax Returns and Another Possible Hatch Act Violation 


President Donald J. Trump arrives on Air Force One to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., March 2, 2017. (Image Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daylena S. Ricks)

This week, a group of California voters is suing to block a new law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns, more allegations Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act and a look at complaints about Baltimore-area properties owned by Kushner Companies.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, addresses his remarks at the Pentagon Thursday, January 17, 2019, announcing the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Review. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

California Tax Return Bill

Four Californians have sued to block a new state law that requires presidential candidates to file their tax returns with the state in order for their names to appear on the ballot.

According to the LA Times, the conservative group Judicial Watch, “lists four California voters as plaintiffs, including two registered as Republicans, one registered as a Democrat and one registered as an independent.”

The lawsuit claims the new law violates the 1st and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The law, signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom last week, requires presidential candidates to file five years of their income tax returns with the California secretary of state. The documents must be filed at least 98 days prior to the primary election.

“Most of the major Democratic candidates for president have already publicly disclosed their personal income tax returns as Trump has refused to do so, breaking with decades of tradition by candidates from both parties,” according to ABC News. 

President Donald Trump’s campaign has called the law “unconstitutional.”

Another Hatch Act Violation for Conway?

A watchdog group is accusing Kellyanne Conway of once again violating the Hatch Act.

According to Newsweek, a tweet from Conway “drew immediate feedback from the watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which has flagged her alleged violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive branch employees from using their official positions to influence the outcome of an election.”

Previous complaints from CREW led the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to recommend Conway be removed from “federal service” for continuing to violate the Act. Conway has failed to testify before the House about these violations.

President Trump has said the OSC recommendation violates Conway’s right to free speech. 

Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, sits in on a meeting with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2017. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Kushner’s Baltimore Housing Projects

When President Trump posted on Twitter about Baltimore, calling it a “rodent infested mess,” news organizations began reporting on the conditions at Jared Kushner’s Baltimore properties.

According to the Seattle Times, “his criticism rang with a particular irony in Baltimore County, where the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner owns more than a dozen apartment complexes that have been cited with hundreds of code violations and, critics say, provide sub-standard housing to lower income tenants.”

As Business Insider reports, an investigation by ProPublica and the New York Times, detailed “decrepit conditions including leaking ceilings, maggots in living-room carpet, and raw human sewage coming from a kitchen sink,” at the properties owned by Kushner Companies.

Kushner Companies is a real estate company owned by Kushner’s family. Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, and senior adviser has resigned as the chief executive of the company but still retains most of his stake in the company.

According to the Baltimore Sun, “Kushner Cos., and its affiliates own nearly 9,000 rental properties in Maryland, more than 7,200 in Baltimore County alone.”

A spokesperson for Kushner Companies told the Sun the company is “proud” to own thousands of apartments in the Baltimore area.

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking. 

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.