From what I understand, Hillary Clinton and her supporters demanded that Bernie Sanders release his tax return, suggesting that he was refusing to do so and was hiding something, even though the demand was made before April 15th and the tax return may not have even been written yet. Bernie promptly complied with the demand and it apparently contained nothing interesting after all.

This seems to just make Hillary Clinton look bad as it is an opportunity to contrast Bernie's (relatively) mundane Senator's salary and Social Security benefit to her great wealth, and his apparent transparency with her steadfast refusal to release her Wall Street speech transcripts, which Bernie and his supporters have been demanding for months, and the seeming motivation for the tax return demand.

Was this attack strategy successful and am I just not aware of it? What did they believe they would find in the Sanders tax return? Why did they think this was a good strategy to attack Bernie?

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    Worse that what you described, Bernie's total income was less than one Hillary speech to a bank. What you are seeing is Hillary and her team are clueless. Apr 17, 2016 at 20:57
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    I'm not sure this question is definitively answerable by anyone outside her inner circle of advisors, but there's enough precedent for demanding tax returns as a campaign strategy that there could be a good answer based on what's been revealed by other candidates' taxes.
    – Bobson
    Apr 17, 2016 at 22:56
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    You answered the question in your first sentence: "suggesting that he was refusing to do so and was hiding something". That's often the entirety of the strategy in situations like this.
    – user1530
    Apr 18, 2016 at 16:10

2 Answers 2


Why did they think this was a good strategy to attack Bernie?

They probably didn't. They likely thought that it would change the conversation at the time. They had been talking about her failure to release transcripts for her speech. As a gambit, it was mildly successful although the moderator did ignore it in the immediate followup.

It also allowed her to make the statement that she had complied with the actual requirements while Bernie hadn't.

I strongly suspect that the net result is going to be nothing. Hillary supporters will stay Hillary supporters; Bernie supporters will stay Bernie supporters. Bernie supporters will have reactions similar to yours. Hillary supporters will say that she shouldn't make herself vulnerable to Republican attacks based on things she said in the transcripts.

  • I would probably add that she assumed there would be something there... after all he has been a politician for over 20 years.... Apr 18, 2016 at 18:21
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    From what we saw in this campaign, Bernie Sanders is probably the only honest politician left in Washington. It's very sad that the Demos decided to back Hilary, opting to continue the status quo instead of letting Bernie take the US political system out of the proverbial ditch. Jun 15, 2016 at 0:20

Obviously, we can't know for sure what went through heads. But there are several plausible reasons:

  • It would establish 2016 precedent, leading up to identical demand on Donald Trump (either by at-the-time primary opponents, or, after conventions, by Clinton campaign)

  • There's always an off chance that Bernie's tax returns contained some sort of information that Clinton could spin negatively, hurting Bernie. Her campaign is really really good at that sort of thing (since way back in Bill's years, never mind 2008-2016).

    Remember that MOST long time active politicians don't usually "behave well" and have tons of skeletons and shady behavior - unlike the business world, there are very few rules governing ethical behavior from Congresscritters. E.g. they can do insider trading. They can peddle influence if they are careful enough to skirt this side of outright bribery/corruption charges.

  • As earlier answer noted, simply trying to deflect the topic from one hurting her to something else in general, never mind "he started it" deflection.

  • Less likely, but it could be an attempt to use the "Republican" line of attack that was popular around that time, about Bernie never having had a steady non-government paycheck. Whether true or not (depending on your spin and how you define the word "is", or in this case, "steady"), it's a possibly effective attack, although not necessarily in DNC primaries.

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