Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has released her IRS returns for the past three years. Gregoire's Republican challenger, former state Sen. Dino Rossi, continues to decline to release his.
Gregoire and her husband, Mike, made $180,179 last year. Most of that is the governor's salary, plus $31,975 in pensions and annuities. Mike Gregoire is retired. The couple claims daughter Michelle as a dependent.
Since 2005, the Gregoire's total income has increased by about $20,000. Over the past three years, the Gregoires have made between $5,000 and $9,000 in gifts annually to charity.
After I received Gregoire's returns, I checked in again with the Rossi campaign. The e-mailed response from spokeswoman Jill Strait was the same as before: "Our position hasn't changed. He's fully complied with all financial disclosures that are required."
Rossi, like Gregoire, has filed financial papers with the state Public Disclosure Commission. By my math, he's making at minimum $255,000 a year from real estate and book publishing. But that's just the minimum. He could be making much more than that.
Some Crosscut readers don't think candidates should feel compelled to release their IRS returns and don't think reporters should ask. I appreciate that feedback, and it helps inform my reporting.
That said, I will reiterate that IRS returns can be useful for a variety of reasons. They can reveal potential conflicts of interest for a candidate. They are a window into a candidate's charitable giving habits. Also, it can be helpful to voters to know where a gubernatorial candidate falls on the socio-economic spectrum. I wouldn't think that would be a deciding factor in casting a vote, but it certainly can help voters draw a portrait of a candidate.
As I've readily acknowledged before, Gregoire is an easier case study. She's had a long career in state government and state politics — her salary is public record. Rossi, too, has served in public office, as a state senator, but he's a businessman and has had many more private financial dealings.
At the end of the day, reporters like me might not feel compelled to ask for tax information if the Public Disclosure Commission's reporting requirements were more helpful. As they stand, candidates who make a million dollars use the same salary coding as candidates who make a hundred thousand a year.