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Whitman refuses to commit to releasing tax returns

February 23, 2010 |  7:42 pm

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman demurred Tuesday when asked if she would release her tax returns, as Democrat-backed groups have been demanding that the billionaire former EBay chief do in recent days.

“We will obviously comport with all the filing requirements for the state of California when you run for governor, and I may release my tax returns,” Whitman said in an interview at the Luxe Hotel in Bel Air. “We’ll see. But I’ll do it on my own timetable and not in response to the unions that are fronting for Jerry Brown.”

State campaign rules require candidates to disclose certain general financial interests prior to elections, but tax returns are not among them. Still, many wealthy candidates, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Controller Steve Westly, released their returns in past races.

The members of Level the Playing Field 2010, a campaign committee of Democrats supporting the gubernatorial candidacy of Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, are calling on Whitman to release her returns and are seizing upon the words of Whitman’s campaign chairman, former Gov. Pete Wilson. In many campaigns, Wilson called on his opponents to release their returns.

In a letter Sunday to Wilson, the group said, "to avoid any appearance of hypocrisy, we call on you to immediately oversee the release of Whitman's tax returns" or resign as her campaign chairman.

Tax returns are apparently not the only thing that Whitman and Wilson disagree on. She said she would have voted against Proposition 187, the ballot measure Wilson embraced that would have prevented illegal immigrants from receiving certain state services such as healthcare. Voters approved the 1994 measure, but the courts declared it unconstitutional. Wilson and the Republican Party’s embrace of the measure is cited by many pundits for the party’s decline among Latino voters.

“I know that 187 was an issue and I have said actually that I would not have voted for 187,” Whitman said. “And you know, you never agree with everyone on every issue. Pete has been a remarkable help to my campaign. I think he was a terrific governor. I want Latinos to look at my whole record, around job creation, around education as a priority. And I’m reaching out to Latinos, I want Latinos to be part of this campaign and I think I will stand on my own on that.”

Whitman, who has pledged not to raise taxes, also said she would not allow the types of tax increases that occurred under Wilson.

“Pete Wilson, I think, was one of the greatest governors of California and I’m not going to second-guess what he did,” she said. “What I will tell you is that under a Whitman administration, we’re not going to raise taxes.”

-- Seema Mehta

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