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Tax returns, lavish gifts and loans: Bill from Rep. Katie Porter would require presidents disclose more financial info

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Up to 12 years’ worth of presidents’ and vice presidents’ tax returns would be public information under new legislation from Rep. Katie Porter.

Named the Presidential Ethics Reform Act, Porter, D-Irvine, alongside Republican Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, said the legislation is aimed at providing “full honesty and transparency from presidents and vice presidents” to “restore Americans’ trust in government.”

The Presidential Ethics Reform Act would require presidents and vice presidents — for two years before taking office, in office and two years after leaving office — to disclose their tax returns as well as payments, gifts and loans they’ve received from foreign citizens, businesses, governments or political parties.

They would also be required to disclose the same foreign payments, gifts and loans made to their family members.

“Our bipartisan Presidential Ethics Reform Act would let Americans view the tax returns, gifts and other conflicts of interest of a president, vice president, and their families, empowering the public to evaluate our leaders’ behavior for themselves,” said Porter. “By boosting transparency and requiring additional financial disclosures, Congress can shine a light on improper conduct in the Executive Branch — or be confident that none occurred.”

The legislation would also require presidents and vice presidents to disclose any gifts or loans — excluding commercial loans — over $10,000 they received from their family members, or any that their family members received.

The bill defines family members as parents, children, siblings, spouses, in-laws, stepfamily and half-siblings.

“Influence peddling is a cottage industry in Washington, and we’ve identified deficiencies in current law that have led to a culture of corruption,” Comer, chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, said. “By creating this bipartisan legislation to provide greater transparency to the financial interactions related to the office of the president and vice president, we can ensure that moving forward American presidents, vice presidents and their family members cannot profit from their proximity to power.”

The bill is “about the future and about restoring trust in government,” Porter told The Associated Press; it’s “not a bill about any past president,” she said.

Former President Donald Trump earlier this year was ordered to pay a fine to the tune of $355 million after a New York judge found that he had committed fraud by lying about his wealth. The judge ruled that Trump and his company had falsified business records to inflate his wealth and used fraudulent financial statements to obtain millions in loans.

As president, Trump refused to release his tax returns and financial records, which Democratic lawmakers took issue with and ultimately escalated to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court in November 2022 OK’d the disclosure of Trump’s tax data to the House Ways and Means Committee, which they publicly released that December.

The returns, among other things, revealed loan agreements between Trump and his children, foreign bank accounts he held while in office, according to CNN, and income from 16 foreign countries.

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