American visitors to Soviet Russia in the decades before the fall of the Berlin Wall often remarked on how their government-appointed guides and minders were always careful to point out the size and scope of the various attractions in the country. Statues couldn’t just be statues, they had to be the largest of their kind in the word. Hydroelectric dams were larger than anything in the US. Individual farms were cultivated on a much greater scale than American farms.
Many commentators at the time suggested that the insistence on trumpeting the country’s greatness was really evidence of a massive inferiority complex. One wonders what those same commentators would make of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, who yesterday announced that he had submitted his required personal financial disclosure to the Federal Election Commission.
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“I filed my PFD, which I am proud to say is the largest in the history of the FEC,” the billionaire former reality television star said in a statement. “Despite the fact that I am allowed extensions, I have again filed my report, which is 104 pages, on time. Bernie Sanders has requested, on the other hand, an extension for his small report.”
He went on, “I have built an incredible company and have accumulated one of the greatest portfolios of real estate assets, many of which are considered to be among the finest and most iconic properties in the world. This is the kind of thinking the country needs.”
And a press release issued by the campaign continued in the same vein. Cash flow is “tremendous” and is being used to fund “various multi-million dollar developments.” His income is “in excess of $557 million” and “Mr. Trump's net worth has increased since the last statement was filed in July of 2015. As of this date, Mr. Trump's net worth is in excess of $10 billion dollars.”
It’s notable that Trump didn’t immediately release a copy of the disclosure, and that may be because he was in no particular hurry for reporters to look at it. Analyses of his previous disclosure from last year suggested that Trump’s numbers were fudged in the sense that he described money as “income” that really ought to have been described as “revenue” (the difference being between a business’s gross receipts and what’s left over after expenses.)
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Regardless of what’s actually in the PFD, Trump’s insistence on his own vast wealth and his apparent need for validation of those claims is positively Soviet-like in its omnipresence.
Hillary Clinton, on Tuesday, also announced that she had filed her PFD with the Election Commission. However, unlike Trump, she made the actual document available to the press immediately.
The filing shows that last year Clinton earned more than $5 million in royalties for her book, Hard Choices, and that she took in an additional $1.5 million for paid speaking engagements. Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, earned more than $4.5 million for speeches and public appearances.
Clinton took the opportunity of the release to tweak Trump for his reluctance to open his personal finances to public scrutiny, pointing out that he has so far refused to release his tax returns. Her campaign has been pushing the notion that Trump is hiding something either sordid or embarrassing by refusing to let the public see his taxes.
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“The true test for Donald Trump is whether he will adhere to the precedent followed by every presidential candidate in the modern era and make his tax returns available, as Hillary Clinton has done,” Clinton spokeswoman Christina Reynolds said in a statement.
There was a degree of irony to Clinton’s claims of transparency. The PFD she released documented the millions of dollars she and her husband earn from speaking engagements. So far though, Clinton has resisted calls to make public the content of several speeches she delivered to Wall Street groups for which she was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.