JEFFERSON CITY • Like Donald Trump, the candidates for Missouri governor are making it difficult to determine how much they earned and paid in taxes last year.
Despite multiple requests from the Post-Dispatch over the course of the past month, Republican Eric Greitens and Democrat Chris Koster have not released their 2015 income tax returns.
While Trump, the GOP nominee for president, maintains he cannot release his returns because of an ongoing audit, the two candidates for governor appear to be playing a political game of chicken.
Greitens spokesman Austin Chambers said the campaign won’t release the information unless Koster does.
“We’re not going to blink,” Chambers said.
A Koster spokesman declined to comment for this story.
As the two candidates head toward a Nov. 8 showdown, the reluctance of the candidates to release their tax information leaves voters with an unclear picture of each candidate’s sources of income, their effective tax rates and charitable contributions, said University of Missouri-St. Louis political scientist Dave Robertson.
“In a climate of so much mistrust in government, I think it is important for people who want to be in a position of leadership to show as much information about themselves as possible,” Robertson said.
Although individual income tax returns are private, most U.S. presidential candidates dating to the early 1970s have chosen to release their returns.
In some states it also is common for governor candidates and other statewide officials to make their returns available for scrutiny.
In Illinois, for example, voters learned in 2015 that Gov. Bruce Rauner, a wealthy investor, earned $58 million the previous year. Farther down the ballot, former Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon released her tax returns in her unsuccessful bid for comptroller.
Gov. Jay Nixon, who is leaving in January after two terms as chief executive, has not typically released his returns.
The Post-Dispatch also has requested the tax returns for the candidates running for U.S. Senate, incumbent Republican Roy Blunt and Democratic challenger Jason Kander.
“Tax returns provide a window into the kinds of things people use when assessing their future leaders. They want to know that their leaders are completely honest and have any questions about their independence thoroughly answered,” Robertson said.
Public records show Koster earns $116,400 annually as attorney general. Financial disclosure reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission also show he holds stocks and other investments worth more than $10,000 each in nine accounts, including Panera Bread, Pfizer and General Mills. Two of the accounts are pooled investment funds associated with his brother Matthew Koster, a managing partner in Eagle Private Capital in Clayton.
Koster, who is not married, also will be eligible for a state pension.
Greitens’ finances are less clear.
An Associated Press review of tax filings, independent audits and annual reports of The Mission Continues charity founded by Greitens shows he worked without pay in 2007 and 2008 as the organization designed to help veterans got underway.
After receiving a grant from the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, records show Greitens was paid a total of $150,000 from mid-2009 through 2010. His salary was increased to $175,000 in 2011 and he received a $25,000 bonus that year. His salary remained at that level the next two years, before he stepped down in 2014 to begin running for governor.
According to financial disclosure statements filed by the Missouri Ethics Commission, Greitens and his wife, Sheena, hold stocks, bonds and other holdings in seven accounts, each worth more than $10,000.
Campaign finance records also show the two own a house in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. The 5-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom single-family home is listed on a number of real estate websites as being worth more than a half-million dollars.
Sheena Greitens is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri. Her salary at the Columbia campus is $63,000 annually.