Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has been hounding President Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to release her tax returns and take a pass on a capital gains tax delay offered to other political appointees. In a letter to Murray obtained exclusively by InsideSources, DeVos agrees to both requests.
DeVos, a billionaire philanthropist and education advocate, is not required by law to release her tax returns, and the HELP committee has not requested the tax returns of prior nominees. But in a January 30 letter to Murray, DeVos says she will comply in releasing her tax returns if the committee asks for them, though DeVos says she has not received a request.
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Additionally, a hot-button issue for some of Trump’s nominees has been a so-called “certificate of divestiture,” which is granted to executive branch appointees and employees so that they won’t face a heavy tax burden when entering government service. In her letter to Murray, DeVos agrees to forego receiving the certificate of divestiture.
The certificate allows those entering the executive branch to temporarily delay capital gains taxes so they can divest of assets, put funds into Treasury bonds and other investments allowed under ethics laws, and then pay capital gains at a later date. Critics say this offers potential financial advantages to appointees by allowing them to diversify investments without a penalty, but the law is intended to avoid placing a heavy burden on those entering government service.
During DeVos’ confirmation hearing before the HELP committee, Murray asked DeVos about potential conflicts of interest from the nominee’s prior investments. DeVos responded: “Let me be very clear about any conflicts. Where conflicts are identified, they will be resolved. I will not be conflicted, period. I commit that to you all.” DeVos also stated during the hearing that she would pass on the certificate of divestiture, and she said she would only accept a salary of $1.
It is unclear whether DeVos’ agreement to comply with Murray’s request will have any impact on her Senate approval. The upper chamber is expected to vote Monday, with the final vote being an even 50-50 split and Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote in DeVos’ favor.