Fred Hubbell is hiding something. Or, at the very least, he made damned sure it looked that way.
The Democratic nominee in Iowa's gubernatorial race recently insulted voters' intelligence with a three-page summary of his 2017 tax returns. The move was in response to pressure applied by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who earlier released 10 years' worth of tax returns.
It's noteworthy that the year vaguely outlined by Hubbell's campaign also happened to be the one where he decided to mount a gubernatorial bid. There can be little doubt that Hubbell's political aspirations influenced financial decisions, such as charitable giving and effective tax rate. Five years-worth of returns is the bare minimum here.
But most telling was Democrats' willingness to perform intellectual gymnastic in defense of Hubbell's so-called nod to transparency, which included no information on where Hubbell's $3 million in income came from.
"I don’t know that (the source of income) is as important as disclosing how much income you have, how much tax you paid and what percentage of your income that you give to charity," Jeff Link, a Hubbell adviser and longtime Democratic operative, said to The Des Moines Register.
Link has been in this line of business for years. He knows that assertion is bogus.
Concerns about conflicts of interest are why politicians are regularly under pressure to release detailed tax filings. Reynolds earned just a fraction of Hubbell's annual take. And, as a government employee, is substantially less likely to hold large financial holdings that might shape her politics. As such, kicking out a decade's worth of tax information was relatively easy for Iowa's governor.
But Hubbell's response was a a slap in the face to any voter generally interested in Hubbell's ability to govern without favor. Last week's offering only served to bolster voters' concern that Hubbell's primary interests might be different from the state's. It's likely that Hubbell's campaign hoped to avoid falling into Reynolds' trap of appearing an out-of-touch rich guy. Instead, it exposed Hubbell as a man unwilling to expose himself to voter scrutiny.
President Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns is a regular fall-back for Democrats hot on defending Hubbell's intentionally incomplete financial record. Reynolds is a hypocrite, they say, because she continues to support the Trump administration.
Fair enough. In this instance, however, Hubbell shares more in common with the divisive American president than his Republican opponent. By every objective measure, it was Hubbell who refused to detail the source of his wealth. And it's Hubbell who could sway policy to benefit his own interests.
Trump's monetization of the presidency stands as a prime example of why a candidate financial holdings should be on full display. In late July, an Inspector General report concluded that Trump personally intervened in the construction of a planned FBI headquarters, which just so happened to be located directly across the street from his Washington hotel. The road closures and construction would have negatively affected the hotel's business. Trump — who also boosted fees at his Mar-a-lago resort after assuming the presidency — acted in self-interest over those of the government.
A gubernatorial candidate from the very party claiming to be Trump's antithesis opted to mirror the president's disdain for accountability. And voters should withhold support for Hubbell until they know from where his millions came.