Scott Stringer tries to turn Eliot Spitzer into Mitt Romney
Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer released five years worth of tax returns this morning, and called on Eliot Spitzer, his recently declared rival in the city comptroller's race, to do the same.
The five-year request covers the time since Spitzer resigned as governor, a period in which he's been helping run his family's lucrative real estate empire.
In response to Stringer's call, Lisa Linden, a spokesman for Spitzer, later released some top-line numbers about Spitzer's taxes.
"For 2011, his adjusted gross income was $3.769M and he paid $1.489M in Federal, State and City taxes (39.5 per cent)," Linden wrote in an email to reporters. "For 2012, his adjusted gross income was $4.268M and he paid $2.094M in Federal, State and City taxes (49 per cent)."
Stringer has focused his campaign so far on Spitzer's wealth, and the tax return request echoes a gambit used by President Obama's campaign last year to frame Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat.
In releasing Stringer's tax returns, Stringer's campaign highlighted comments Spitzer made criticizing Romney for not disclosing information about his taxes, and any potential loopholes, after Romney criticized the 47 percent of Americans who he alleged pay nothing but receive government subsidies.
Questions about Romney's taxes were exacerbated by reports of exotic offshore entities, which helped him minimize the amount he paid in taxes.
On September 19, 2012, while hosting his show on the Current cable network, Spitzer said he wanted to see if Romney was hiding his money in order to avoid paying taxes he owed the government.
"And now I am once again curious how hard he tried to become part of the 47 [percent] with off-shore shelters, and other games that are suspect," Spitzer said. "So MItt, before we let you get away with deriding the hard-working folks who are not, perhaps, fortunate enough to have to file a federal income tax return, I want to see how hard you worked to minimize your own contribution. Game on, Mitt. Where do you stand with your own taxes?"
Before Linden had sent the top-line numbers, I asked her by email if the campaign's disclosures would show whether Spitzer maintains any "off shore accounts or non-taxable entities." Linden did not reply to my question.
Spitzer and his family's fortune has been a source of strength, and headaches, for as long as he's been in politics. Spitzer was less than forthright about the role his father, a real estate mogul, played in financing his first campaign for attorney general in 1994, and his successful campaign in 1998.
Stringer cited questions about the fund-raising for both of those campaigns at a press conference yesterday, in calling for Spitzer to abide by the prescribed spending limits for candidates in the city's matching funds program, a request Spitzer essentially shrugged off.
Spitzer has said he'll self-fund his campaign and "will spend sufficient funds to inform the public about where I stand on the issues."
Stringer's hope is that questions about the source of that money linger for a while.
As Daily News editorial board member Michael Aronson wondered aloud last week, "Where is his money and where is his father's money? ... Is there any independence between Eliot and his father's money?"
UPDATE: Linden emailed an additional statement to reporters this afternoon: "Eliot has released his aggregate gross income and the amounts he paid in Federal, State and City taxes. He will not be releasing the actual tax returns, as they contain income information about partnerships and other entities that is private. The information he released provided the relevant data: AGI and taxes paid in the past two years. The percentages he paid in taxes were 49 per cent and 39.5 per cent, respectively. Additional information will be provided in the required campaign filings."