The California financier and liberal activist had promised to release his tax forms once he entered the race. He also challenged President Donald Trump, the only president since Richard Nixon who hasn't released his, to follow suit. On Thursday, Steyer followed through by posting more than 2,600 pages of records to his website.
"The American public can have a clear picture of his charitable giving, political activities, and taxes paid," his campaign said in a memo. "Tom has long committed to releasing his tax returns if he ever became a candidate for public office, and today's disclosure makes good on that commitment."
The release of Steyer's taxes offers a detailed yet incomplete look at his massive wealth and business success, which he has made central to his pitch to voters. But it also comes immediately after he failed to qualify for the next Democratic primary debate, a setback that could seriously diminish his prospects if he doesn't find ways to generate news coverage and stay in the conversation.
Steyer and his wife, Kathryn Taylor, made $1.2 billion between 2009 and 2017, much of it earned through capital gains. During that time, they also paid out $405.3 million in federal and state taxes. One of Steyer's most profitable years was 2012, when he reported making $174 million after selling his stake in Farallon Capital, the hedge fund he founded. He reported making $189 million in 2014.
The documents also show that he made millions more through foreign investments, including stakes in companies headquartered in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and China. "Tom received income from all over the world," his campaign memo states. "The fact that these are reported on his taxes demonstrates that the income passed through directly to Tom, was properly reported to the IRS, and all appropriate taxes were paid."
Despite the claims of transparency, much is also left out. The documents, which repeatedly omit details about transactions and line items, are rife with annotations that instruct tax officials to refer to additional notes. Those notes, however, are not included in the release.
Steyer's taxes also show his increasing interest in politics. He donated $52,000 to political causes in 2009. But that shot up in 2014, when he plunged $67.6 million into political groups, including his own NextGen America environmental nonprofit.
Though the memo released by his campaign does not mention Trump by name, much of it is clearly directed at him. "This disclosure is unprecedented, compared with many previous candidates' time in the private sector," one passage reads. "Tom believes it is important to provide voters with an understanding of his role in the private sector, which he has since left behind to work for the public good."