Michelle Singletary

WASHINGTON -- I hope Donald Trump, the pompous, orange-complexioned host of "Celebrity Apprentice" runs for president because then we'll get a certified look at his income, investments and debts.

But here's a Trump-like prediction, which is like the various pronouncements made by the real estate developer that aren't backed by any credible evidence. Trump will not run.

He won't declare officially because the Ethics in Government Act requires candidates for federal office to file disclosures of their personal finances.

The Office of Government Ethics recently released an advisory to potential presidential and vice presidential candidates clarifying the financial reporting requirements. Among other disclosures, candidates have to report income of $200 or more. They have to report assets -- income generating real property, stocks, bonds, mutual fund shares, commodity futures and other securities -- that exceed $1,000. And they would have to disclose liabilities that are over $10,000 owed to any creditor during the reporting period. They do not have to list a mortgage secured by a personal residence.

Although the financial disclosure is used to identify potential conflicts of interest and is not a complete net worth statement, it still provides a good look at a candidate's financial holdings. No embellishing allowed. Candidates have to certify that the financial statements and attached schedules are true, complete and correct to the best of their knowledge.

The Huffington Post's Marcus Baram has reported on Trump's pattern of exaggerating his wealth. In a 2007 deposition, obtained by The Huffington Post and CNN, Trump was asked about his statements that his net worth was $8 billion. This is what Trump said: "I don't know. I don't think so. Well, maybe I'm adding 4 or 5 billion dollars worth, 3 billion, for the value of a brand. But I don't know."

Forbes magazine puts Trump's net worth at $2.7 billion.

In the big picture, Trump still lives lavishly, whether he's a multimillionaire or multibillionaire. But his filings may reveal he's like many Americans who live large because of their access to debt.

So just how good a businessman is Trump?

Companies either run by Trump or affiliated with him have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection numerous times, with a casino operating group in which Trump was the chairman filing as recently as 2009 -- for the third time. This from a possible presidential candidate who says he can balance the federal budget?

Michelle Singletary

Michelle Singletary is a nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post.

Be the first to read Michelle Singletary's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.

TOWNHALL FINANCE DAILY

Get the best of Townhall Finance Daily delivered straight to your inbox

Follow Townhall Finance!