It seems that on both sides of the ticket, these campaigns are ending with the same issues that had been brought up at earlier points in their progression. For Hillary, it was a throwback to the good old “Email-gate” saga; for Trump it appears that tax evasion is once more rearing its head in the final week of campaigning. It began Halloween with an article published in the New York Times (the same publication which originally published the records showing Trump could have avoided paying taxes for two decades in early October) detailing even further tax transgressions. As the article claimed, “newly obtained documents show that in the early 1990s… Mr. Trump avoided reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income by using a tax avoidance maneuver so legally dubious his own lawyers advised him that the Internal Revenue Service would most likely declare it improper if he were audited.” Essentially the idea was that in the beginning of the 90s, Trump’s “empire” was beginning to crack, most notably with the failed business prospect of a casino conglomerate in Atlantic City (like the money losing Trump Taj Mahal casino which just recently closed its doors permanently). He had millions of dollars in debt racked up from crashing business and real estate ventures, which he asked his financial backers to forgive so that the casinos could be given more time to succeed. All those millions of dollars should have been easy fodder for the IRS to tax- unless Trump was able to find a minute loophole that would allow him to not report the canceled debt, therefore escaping a possibly career ending IRS bill. This tax benefit came at the expense of the many investors and banks that had chosen to give the Trump brand a second chance. The maneuver was so shady that Trump’s own tax lawyers implored him not to do it because it would “more likely than not” raise a red flag from the IRS.
In a scathing editorial, the Times criticized Trump’s long record of skirting the rules, pointing out that his self-claimed mastery of the tax code was nothing to brag about as it shifted the burden then to millions of American taxpayers. They argued that Trump’s claims of providing tax breaks for the less wealthy were clearly flawed – as a businessman who benefited from tax breaks his whole career, the more likely scenario would be simply increased tax breaks for the wealthy, so he could help his own cause.
Politico also published an article detailing what Trump’s refusal to release his personal tax returns mean for his campaign and in particular the accusations (most recently coming from Senate minority leader Harry Reid) that Trump has significant Russian connections, which would explain why Russian state-sanctioned hackers have been so eager to skew the American presidential race in his favor. Even if Trump didn’t actually possess any loans or business interests in Russia, there is still a possibility that the tax records could reveal “shared partnership interests, equity interests, joint ventures or licensing agreements with Russia or Russians.” And it wouldn’t just be Russians who Trump could be found to have integral interests with, but a multitude of foreign powers, all of whom could stand to benefit from a Trump presidency. There’s a lot of speculation out there, but no real facts or proof, which can lead to things like this:
The GOP nominee has vehemently refused to release these records, sometimes arguing that it is impossible for him to do so as they are under audit, other times claiming he will only do so when Hillary Clinton finally discloses her paid speeches to big banks. At this point in the election, the race is still up for grabs and any act of good faith could steer the election over to one side. Clinton, who up until this weekend was essentially a lock for the title, now faces a major setback in the form of the FBI investigation. Trump could have probably taken a hit from this story too, had it actually been picked up widely by the media – but the email scandal gained more traction. It’s very unclear how this will all play out on Super Tuesday.