EDITORIAL: Stapleton undermines public trust by ignoring questions about his own; both candidates should disclose tax records now


While Colorado voters may disagree about many things, most will agree money does matter — candidate money.

A Sentinel Colorado story this week pointed out serious discrepancies between what Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton has said about his sizable family fortune, and what state and federal records actually reveal about it. Neither Stapleton nor his campaign have responded to repeated requests to explain or comment on the difference between what State Treasurer Stapleton has said about a purported blind trust, and what the records show.

And while Stapleton’s Democratic challenger, Congressman Jared Polis, has been transparent about how his vast fortune was made and how he goes to great ethical lengths to hold it in a verified blind trust, neither he nor Stapleton have released current tax documents, which voters deserve to see for those seeking the governor’s job.

Voters need not look any further than the current Congress and White House to understand how campaign issues and promises are essential, but honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability of candidates is critical to the gubernatorial campaign.

Stapleton’s mishandling of revealing details about his finances affect his credibility and raise grave concerns about his honesty. Voters have every reason to expect how candidates behave now will be a solid indication of how they would act if elected. President Donald Trump is living proof of that cannon.

Now days before voters begin receiving ballots for the 2018 election, it’s imperative Stapleton release his current and recent tax records and explain why he’s referred to a trust containing his family’s financial assets as a “blind trust” when clearly it is not. He needs to explain his involvement in purchasing outside held stock in a family-run company in 2011, while he was state treasurer, after making it seem he wouldn’t be involved in the company after taking office.

State and federal records reveal the appearance of impropriety in making it seem Stapleton no longer had control over his company, while at the same time receiving money as a consultant to it, and documenting the time spent managing a stock buy to benefit him and his family.

It’s clear that managing Stapleton’s family portfolio was, and may still be, a part-time job. Voters deserve to know if he will continue to act as a “consultant” to his own “blind trust,” and how much time he expects that will take.

This isn’t Washington or the East Coast. Colorado voters have historically demanded much more of their political leaders, and they’ve gotten it. Every governor in recent memory has been far more forthcoming than Stapleton about their financial holdings, and how it would affect their role as the state’s top official. Every gubernatorial candidate has been far more accessible to the media, taking and answering tough and often unwanted questions. Voters in Colorado not only expect that, they demand it.

A series of outlandish attack ads have made transparency by both candidates more important than ever. A third-party attack ad against Polis falsely infers that Polis doesn’t pay taxes. His formerly released tax records show that’s not true. Recent tax records could back that up, and Polis needs to release them.

The Polis campaign has offered documents and explanation about the congressman’s considerable wealth and blind trust. It’s time for Stapleton to do the same.

Both voters and the candidates will benefit from releasing current tax and financial records, and answering questions about them.