Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What Is Bob Hiding?

Why won't Bob Corker release his entire tax returns? He is the only U.S. Senate candidate in the nation not to do so. What is he hiding?

Does he not trust Tennesseans with the truth?

The Commercial Appeal reports:

Democrat Harold Ford Jr. has released copies of his complete federal income tax returns for the past four years, including the schedules and forms that provide details of sources of income, deductions and contributions.

Republican Bob Corker has released a one-page summary of his federal taxes from 1976 through 2005 listing adjusted gross income, tax paid and charitable contributions yearly.

Corker also offered to make available to reporters for viewing the first two pages, Form 1040, of his tax returns for those same years -- but no accompanying schedules that provide a much more complete picture of the sources of his wealth, despite requests for those schedules.

Ford's returns indicate his adjusted gross income increased from $134,557 in 2002 to $150,828 in 2005 -- most of which comes from his $146,452 congressional salary.

Corker's summary indicates that his income since 1994, when he made an unsuccessful run for the Senate, has ranged from $296,462 that year to $4,928,729 in 2005. In fact, his summary shows income well above $1 million in five of the last seven years.

Neither federal nor state law requires candidates to publicly disclose their personal tax returns. But for three decades, candidates for statewide office in Tennessee have generally provided varying degrees of disclosure of their returns, which have frequently become issues in the campaigns.

"The bottom line is, the more disclosure that the public can have of where the interests and incomes of public servants and candidates are, the better," said Dick Williams, state chairman of the public-interest group Common Cause of Tennessee.

"The current law does not require that much detail, but if one candidate is going to do it, the other one -- even if they don't have anything to hide -- the public I think automatically has to wonder."

The Commercial Appeal Tuesday formally requested both campaigns to provide access to complete copies of their last three tax returns, including accompanying schedules, to allow a more thorough review of their personal finances including an examination for potential conflicts of interest with Senate duties.

Ford's campaign responded by releasing copies of four years' worth of complete tax returns totaling 74 pages and said the files are also available for public viewing at his campaign headquarters.

Corker's campaign released the 1976-2005 summary, listing by year adjusted gross income, tax paid, charitable contributions and the percentages the taxes and contributions were of gross income. His campaign spokeswoman, Alexia Poe, also offered to allow reporters to review copies of the first two pages of each year's tax returns, but make no copies of them.

The first two pages provide general categories of income, such as wages and salaries, interest, dividends, business income, capital gains, pensions and rental real estate; the kinds of taxes paid and credits taken.

Asked why Corker chose not to release his complete returns, or make copies of his Form 1040s available for public review, Poe would say only, "Bob Corker takes very seriously his responsibility to provide voters with information regarding his personal finances. That's why he has filed on time his Personal Finance Disclosure statement with the secretary of the Senate and made available for review by the media the first two pages of his tax return dating all the way back to 1976."

Ford's senior campaign advisor, Michael Powell, said Ford "trusts Tennessee voters. He believes when you run for public office, you have an obligation to fully disclose and be as transparent as possible about your personal finances. Public servants must be beyond reproach."

In the 2002 gubernatorial election, Republican Van Hilleary provided complete copies, including schedules, of his tax returns. Democrat Phil Bredesen released copies of his Form 1040 including only Schedule A, showing itemized deductions and interest and dividend income.

In the 2002 Senate election, Democrat Bob Clement released complete returns, including schedules, while Republican Lamar Alexander, released only his basic Form 1040.

Vanderbilt University political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer said the matter will become a campaign issue "if the Ford campaign and the media make it an issue. Whether there is anything in those schedules that is of interest or worthy of public attention is a question.

"By itself, it's interesting but I think the question is, can an issue be made of it -- does it become part of a pattern. What information are candidates willing to release about themselves generally."


  • Corker wanted to keep lawsuit proceedings secret. Corker has asked a judge to seal all filings in a lawsuit alleging that Corker trampled on environmental protections to sell land to Wal-Mart while mayor of Chattanooga. The judge ruled against sealing all documents. The Chattanooga Times Free Press declares that the public needs to know “how and why” the shady deal went down, and a Chattanoogan columnist says “The public needs to be suspicious.” [AP, 8/22/06; Chattanooga Times Free Press, 8/26/06; The Chattanoogan, 8/27/06]

  • Now Corker wants to hide his tax records from the public. Corker’s campaign will release only a one-page summary of his tax records between 1976 and 2005 and copies of his 1040 forms from the past four years—refusing to release the accompanying schedules that detail investment and business gain. Corker’s campaign says that that details may be “subject to misinterpretation.” The public interest group Common Cause counters that “the more disclosure that the public can have of where the interests and incomes of public servants and candidates are, the better.” [AP, 8/27/06]

  • Representative Harold Ford Jr. has released his full tax records. Representative Harold Ford Jr. believes that “when you run for public office, you have an obligation to fully disclose and be as transparent as possible about your personal finances.” Ford has provided full copies of his federal tax returns from the last four years, including all relevant schedules. [AP, 8/27/06]

Usually when someone won't disclose information, that means they are hiding something. What? No one knows. But judging the way Bob is trying to keep it under wraps, it can't be good.

Vote for someone you can trust this fall. Vote Ford.