Bill Brady’s begrudging method of releasing his tax returns -- he allowed reporters to view them for three hours on Friday in his Springfield campaign office -- was a mistake that will end up raising more questions than it answered.
When a man as wealthy as Brady doesn’t pay federal income taxes for two years, voters want to know why. A cursory examination by journalists, who aren’t trained to examine tax returns, isn’t enough to explain why.
Already, people are wondering why Brady didn’t have to pay taxes on his $75,000 state senate salary and $162,000 in capital gains. They’re wondering why a man who lost more than $100,000 in 2008 was able to loan his campaign for governor the same amount of money only a year later.
It also doesn’t look good that an anti-Obama Republican who’s opposed to government handouts managed to avoid paying taxes on $119,000 in income, thanks to a provision in the stimulus package.
On Friday, Brady made his lawyer, Jason Brickman, available to answer questions. Brickman explained that Brady’s real estate and construction businesses lost $395,000 in 2008.
“As the economy has been struggling, so has he,” Brickman explained.
But Brickman is a partisan ally, not an independent accountant. And he offered the same poor-mouth excuse that Alexi Giannoulias has been peddling to explain the failure of Broadway Bank.
As more than one newspaper commenter noted, the struggling economy didn’t force Brady to sell his Florida vacation home or his Porsche -- although it did force him to lay off dozens of employees.
Brady’s escape from the tax man will win the admiration of Tea Partiers. But not from Pat Quinn, who’s trying to close a $13 billion budget deficit.
“The original Tea Party’s rallying cry was ‘no taxation without representation,’” said Quinn spokeswoman Mica Matsoff. “Apparently, Senator Brady misinterpreted this line as ‘no taxation for elected representatives.’"
Quinn is no financial wizard -- he’s got the state $13 billion in the red -- but he now has the upper hand on the tax issue. Quinn forced a reluctant rival to release his tax returns. Now, he can run an ad declaring, “Bill Brady hasn’t paid taxes for two years.”
The ad won’t be fair, but it won’t be wrong, either.
And unless Brady gives Illinois a closer look at his returns, he won’t be able to explain why.