TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Monday tore into Democrat-backed legislation aimed at getting President Donald Trump to release his tax returns, rejecting the measure as a “transparent political stunt masquerading as a bill” and instead calling on lawmakers to open themselves up to public disclosure requirements.
The bill would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to release their income tax returns to get on the ballot in New Jersey and would prohibit electors from voting for them if they didn’t comply. Christie has been Trump’s friend for about 15 years, is one of his highest-profile supporters and was hand-picked by the GOP president to lead a national anti-opioid commission.
Christie said the Democrat-led Legislature pursued the bill “as a form of therapy to deal with their disbelief of the 2016 election results” and called the legislation unconstitutional.
“This transparent political stunt masquerading as a bill is politics at its worst,” Christie wrote in a conditional veto statement.
Democratic Assemblyman John McKeon, who sponsored the bill, denied the legislation was about Trump and instead said it focused on future elections. In March, however, he had acknowledged that Trump inspired the measure.
“(All) Gov. Christie can think about is his ally Donald Trump. Sad!” McKeon said Monday in a statement.
Christie also proposed amending the bill to eliminate the disclosure exemption for legislative records in the Open Records Act. He is sending back the bill to the Legislature for reconsideration.
“Although I have strong doubts that the Legislature has any real interest in promoting greater transparency, I am recommending changes to the bill that would fit the old saying `Doctor heal thyself,”‘ Christie wrote.
Records from the governor’s office may be disclosed under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, but they are sometimes redacted or requests for documents are withheld for a number of exemptions.
Tom Hester, a spokesman for Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, said there are no plans to consider Christie’s proposal. A message left with the state Senate president’s office wasn’t immediately returned. Christie’s idea would need approval from both chambers to be enacted.
More than a dozen other states are considering similar legislation that goes back to Trump’s failure to release his income taxes, a practice that goes back decades for presidential candidates. Trump has so far refused and said he would release them when the Internal Revenue Service completes an audit.
Last week Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that Trump doesn’t plan to release the documents and that Americans already have “plenty of information” about his finances.
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