Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton says she won’t release her tax returns until she has the Democratic presidential nomination in hand, and not before tax filing time comes in mid-April.

Clinton argued for openness Tuesday night during her latest debate with Democratic rival Barack Obama.

“I will release my tax returns,” Clinton said during the debate. “I have consistently said I will do that once I become the nominee, or even earlier.”

Pressed about the timing of releasing her tax returns, campaign aides were more reticent Wednesday, indicating that Clinton would not release the sensitive financial data during a hotly contested primary, but only at tax filing time.

“As is customary, as the Democratic nominee Senator Clinton will release her tax information in April at tax time,” said spokesman Jay Carson.

It is conceivable that the Democratic contest would still be competitive on April 15, the tax filing deadline. Obama has built a slight edge in delegates earned during the primary season, and the two rivals are headed for big tests Tuesday in Ohio and Texas that could reshape the race.

Obama released his tax returns last year and in 2006.

Clinton’s financial status has received increased attention since her husband left the White House. Former President Clinton has authored best-selling books — as has she — and he has become a highly paid member of the lecture circuit. That’s left them comfortably fixed, a financial status which Clinton often refers to on the campaign trail.

During the latest campaign debate, Clinton bragged about her financial independence, saying her campaign is financed by the thousands of small donors who back her effort.

“The American people who support me are bankrolling this campaign,” said Clinton, who was campaigning Wednesday in Ohio.

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