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Goody-goody Barack Obama releases tax returns for 7 years

March 25, 2008 |  8:03 pm

This Barack Obama guy and his staff are pretty clever. They wanted to release his income tax returns for the last several years to show a blatant transparency that conflicts with the secrecy of his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

But Obama was smart enough to know that if he released his tax returns for 2007, that means he already has them done three whole weeks before the April 15 deadline. He would look like one of those guys named Joel with glasses and spare pens in 10th grade who ostentatiously turned in his English essay a day early, earning praise from the teacher and the distinct dislike of his silently staring classmates.

And Obama would lose the vote of every one of us, er, you procrastinators out there.

It's all really just part of the ongoing sniping between the Illinois senator and the New York senator, the one who just got around to releasing her first lady schedules eight-plus years after she was no longer first lady. Yeh, right it was the National Archives' fault.

She hasn't even released her income taxes for recent years the way Obama has. So, since....

there's very little in policy differences between the two Democrats who want to be president, they're scrapping over who's the goody-goody on taxes and releasing personal documents. Now, Obama's taxes are out there back through 2000. Also the stuff on his house purchase and the fence and the lot purchase.

Obama's crowd wants the world to see Clinton as a secretive politician who's failed to disclose vital personal financial information. In trying to draw a contrast, Obama's campaign announced that it has posted Obama's 2000 through 2006 tax returns, including schedules, on its website.

Many of the Obama documents had previously been released to the Chicago Tribune and other news organizations, some as early as April 2007, right after it was filed.

"Releasing tax returns is a matter of routine, and we believe the Clinton campaign should meet that routine standard and meet that routine standard now," said Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director.

Clinton has said she will release her post-White House tax documents in mid-April, perhaps before the next nominating contest in Pennsylvania on April 22. Perhaps not. You've heard of a New York minute. This is an Arkansas minute -- it can be as long or short as you want.

But Obama's campaign has repeatedly criticized her for not releasing the documents sooner, as it has tried to suggest that Obama is an advocate for openness and transparency.

"If Sen. Clinton shares those same ideals, all she has to do is send someone down to Kinko's," Gibbs said, adding that Clinton's campaign has been "dead silent" on whether it will release only cover pages or also more detailed schedules.

Asked when Obama would release additional records from his time as an Illinois state senator, as Clinton has previously demanded to cover up the fact she hadn't release some of hers, Gibbs announced that is now a non-issue.

"There's nothing to release," he said. "I think that has been pretty well documented in the press for many months." That's a somewhat different answer than Obama initially gave when asked about his Illinois state Senate records last fall. He indicated then he didn't have any or many.

-- Mark Silva

Mark Silva writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau.