WASHINGTON -- Carly Fiorina isn’t keeping secrets, at least when it comes to how much money she has. She became the first candidate to release details about her personal wealth, distributing to the press documents that detailed her $59 million net worth.
At first blush, it looks like a swipe at Hillary Clinton. Fiorina, a Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race, is gaining a strong position as the anti-Clinton, taking opportunities to criticize her Democratic rival. And Clinton has been dogged by questions about her own wealth and that of her family’s foundation.
"I've taken hundreds of questions -- whether about hot dogs or my personal finances -- and I think it's all fair game. I think leadership of any kind requires trust and transparency, and voters should demand no less from their political leadership in government,” Fiorina said in a statement, echoing her consistent criticism of Clinton.
Fiorina’s campaign distributed the personal financial disclosure form she’s required to complete as part of running for president. The form provides an extensive list of more than 1,000 investments that Fiorina holds -- everything from cigarette maker Altria to online giant Yahoo! But that form only requires candidates to indicate ranges and doesn’t include property owned.
In contrast to Clinton, Fiorina also lists a number of paid speeches. She has four that are still scheduled in the coming months, although the form doesn’t require her to disclose the expected payments.
Her campaign workers went farther than was required, indicating that she had a total of $59 million in net worth, including her property. They also released two years worth of tax forms for Fiorina, 2012 and 2013. (It’s likely, given the size of her investment portfolio, that her 2014 taxes aren’t complete.)
Fiorina’s campaign detailed exactly what her tax rate was for the last two years. For 2012 and 2013, Fiorina’s effective federal tax rate was 20 percent. If you add in state and local taxes, her combined effective tax rate was 30 percent.
In releasing the documents, Fiorina, who continues to gain momentum in the Republican primary despite entering polling in the low single digits, is also warding off some questions about her personal wealth. Fiorina was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, a position that allowed her to amass considerable personal wealth.
It could be a lesson learned from Mitt Romney. He struggled with questions about his wealth, which were only made worse when he refused to release his income tax returns beyond 2010 and 2011. Presidential candidates have historically released 10 years worth of tax returns, but after repeated demands from opponents, Romney agreed to release only two years -- a decision that kept questions about wealth coming for months. Romney’s net worth is considerably larger than Fiorina’s.
One of the criticisms Romney faced was trying to determine exactly what his effective tax rate was. In the documents that Romney released, his effective federal tax rate was 14 percent. And that didn’t stop suggestions -- that were later deemed likely to be false -- that there could have been years when Romney paid no taxes at all. And that at 14 percent, his tax rate fell below that of other working people.
Fiorina, for her part, won’t have to worry about criticism like that.