Called on to release five years of tax returns, Kirsten Gillibrand obliges

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Kirsten Gillibrand at Personal Democracy Forum. (Personal Democracy via flickr)
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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released five years' worth of her tax returns this afternoon.

Filing jointly with her husband Jonathan, an investor, the couple reported just over $165,000 in adjusted gross income last year, and paid over $38,000 in New York and federal taxes, for an effective tax rate of 17 percent.

The couple's income varied from $148,000 to $397,000 over the five-year period, and their effective tax rate was between 14 percent and 26 percent, though it always outpaced the average effective tax rate for their tax bracket, according to the press release.

Gillibrand's disclosure comes as Democrats have pressured Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to release more of his own tax returns, a demand that Romney has tried to ignore. 

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Gillibrand's opponent, former judicial activist Wendy Long, had called on Gillibrand to release five years' returns (though Long, who serves as a legal adviser to Romney, stopped short of calling on Romney to do the same).

There's a precedent for presidential candidates to release numerous returns—Romney's own father released 12 years of returns—but most members of Congress, including some of the same Democratic leaders who are pressuring Romney, have preferred to keep their own returns private

In 2009, after her appointment to the Senate, she allowed reporters to view three years of returns.

Gillibrand's press release framed today's disclosure as a pro-active move, consistent with her push for increased transparency in Washington.

“I have always placed a top priority on finding new ways to increase the accessibility, transparency and accountability of government because it’s the right thing to do,” she said in the release.

She was the first senator to post her schedules online and remains one of the few to file her quarterly FEC reports online. (Unlike members of the House, Senators have the option to file paper records, which delays their appearance, and makes them more difficult to search, on the F.E.C. site.)

While Romney's returns include a number of potential pitfalls—including a low tax rate for his income bracket and some hard to explain foreign investments—there doesn't seem to be any such obvious ammunition in the Gillibrand returns. (I have reached out to a spokesman for Long, who said he was still reviewing them.)

In early 2010, Gillibrand pressured her potential opponent, former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford Jr., to release his tax returns, which would have revealed whether he received a bonus from Merrill Lynch and whether he had been paying New York income taxes since re-locating from Tennessee. Ford declined, and eventually pulled out of the race.

UPDATE: In a statement, Long claimed credit for the release and suggested she was ready to move on to other issues. "I'm glad Senator Gillibrand heeded my call to release her taxes," she said. "Perhaps now we can move on to discussing her votes for big spending and high taxes that are breaking the backs of hardworking New Yorkers and creating recession-level unemployment."