This GOP Candidate Is Copying Trump's Tax Return Duplicity — But His Excuse Is Even More Pathetic

Trump has given other candidates permission to break norms.

Photo Credit: Scott Wagner For Governor website

Former Pennsylvania state Sen. Scott Wagner, the Republican nominee for governor taking on Democratic incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf, likes to style himself as a miniature version of President Donald Trump. He says he will "drain the Harrisburg swamp." And he has made use of Trump-style derogatory nicknames for opponents, calling primary challenger Paul Mango "Lying Paul" in the middle of a debate.

There's one other thing Wagner has in common with Trump: both of them are refusing to release their tax returns.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump claimed he couldn't release his tax returns while he was under audit — which was not true. If anything, however, Wagner's excuse is even more ridiculous.


"You want the answer, I'm going to give you the answer, okay?" Wagner said, when pressed by a questioner at a Q&A event in Erie. "We’re non-union companies ... If I disclose those tax returns, union representatives get a hold of my tax returns, go around to my employees’ homes at night and say, ‘Hey Mrs. Jones, how much does your husband make?’ She goes, ‘Well he makes this.’ ‘Well this guy makes a lot more.’” He added that "how much I make is my business and nobody's business."

Wagner is the owner of Penn Waste, a garbage collection company in south-central Pennsylvania. He is a strong supporter of passing an anti-union "right to work" law in Pennsylvania — and based on this rant, he considers discouraging his workers from unionizing to be a perfectly valid justification for refusing to show basic transparency toward voters.

As with the U.S. presidential election, there is no law in Pennsylvania requiring gubernatorial candidates to release their tax returns. However, most candidates for the office since at least the 1990s have done so, and for good reason: it is proof that a candidate has no conflicts of interest. Positions of high office influence businesses and markets all around the state, and voters need to trust a candidate will not operate out of their own financial interest — as Trump has repeatedly done. Even before he actually became president, his campaign alone enriched Trump Organization properties by at least $15 million through hosting campaign events, and as president, Trump has spent millions in taxpayer money at his Mar-a-Lago golf club, even making the Secret Service pay to rent his golf carts.

While the details of Wagner's finances are private, what little has been released suggests his holdings are elaborate. According to the York Daily Record, the statement of financial interest Wagner submitted to the state Ethics Commission includes "30 sources of income" including "holdings in hotels, freight hauling, property and a diesel engine dealership, as well as dozens of debts."

The public's interest in knowing that a potential governor of their state is free from ethical conflicts surely outweighs that candidate's fear that knowing what he is worth might cause a union drive at his business.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.