The U.S. Tax Code is overly complicated and something few, if any Americans truly understand.
It’s that collective ignorance which allows many in the media to run stories such as the one the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did last week on the amount of taxes paid by potential Republican candidates looking at running for the U.S. Senate against U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison). In it, they reported that in 2015, former 2012 Senate candidate and Madison-area businessman Eric Hovde paid no state income taxes due to substantial costs his businesses were making at time.
Hovde did nothing against the law and has told the newspaper should he decide to throw his hat into the ring against Baldwin, would make his personal finances public. Telling Media Trackers’ Jerry Bader on his radio show Friday morning that stories like this are frustrating, but part of running for public office.
“Look, when I ran last time I was accused and attacked of everything under the sun,” said Hovde to Bader. “Taking stimulus. I never took a stimulus dollar. Accused in an attack ad of tax evasion. Was never accused of tax evasion. I could go on and on and on.”
“When it comes to taxes, as I said to Jason Stein (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter),” continued Hovde. “I haven’t made up my mind. I’ve been very clear that I’m going to wait until my younger daughter gets off to college. Then my wife and I are going to sit down and come up with our decision.”
“I said, ‘Look, if I run then I will make my taxes available – like I did last time,” said Hovde. “I was very transparent, and if I don’t, I’m a private citizen so why should I get into it?”
Stories like these hold no real news value; especially if all individuals are following the tax laws as written and doing all they can to ensure they keep as much of their money as legally possible. The Journal Sentinel itself even reported that Hovde paid nearly $400,000 in state taxes in the three years before 2015.
All this story serves to do is build resentment against a potential candidate by tapping into voters’ personal belief of what is “Fair” under the tax code. That’s Hovde himself pointed out, telling Bader he wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the Journal Sentinel’s headline used against him if he were run against Senator Baldwin.
“Unfortunately, the media and the Democratic Party are quasi-arms of each other in some ways – and I’m not putting that on Jason Stein or Dan Bice – but this is a story about throwing up a big headline so the Democrats can run off and say something and put it in ads. So it is what it is and you have to roll with the punches.”
Hovde also dismissed a previous JS story that suggested that a stock sale was in possible preparation of self-financing a run. Hovde said sometimes such moves are simply timely business decisions.
Hovde is one of several names being circulated as potential Republican challengers to Tammy Baldwin. Among the others are state Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield), Milwaukee area businessman Kevin Nicholson, and state Assemblyman Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield). It was reported earlier in the week that one potential candidate, Nicole Schneider of Green Bay, had decided against running.