Falling behind on your taxes is a lot easier than paying. And if you run for public office, your tax debt is fair game. In fact, a $28,000 debt to the federal Internal Revenue Service has stalled Democrat Comptroller candidate Kevin Gaughan’s campaign. And it should.
Gaughan says he is paid up, but he's lied about that before. Even if voters are in a forgiving mood, an October 7th People for Gaughan bounced check should give further concern about the perennial candidate’s ability to keep the County’s books. He can’t keep his own.
As a political aide, my own tax debt was hung on Carl Paladino during his 2010 campaign for governor. I provided an IRS document to prove the debt in question was paid. Even that didn’t slow down the story.
I wasn’t running for office; I didn't want to work in government. Still, my tax debt was news – mostly because Cuomo’s team spoon-fed confidential documents to purring reporters, who dutifully hacked up the story like a hairball. That's how it works.
Carl didn't care, so I shrugged it off. This game ain’t played in short pants, after all, and I offer no quarter, so I ask for none.
I don't believe getting crossways with the tax man disqualifies you for public office. How you handle it can, however.
I told reporters the truth: I am a terrible bookkeeper. In fact, no matter how you fall behind in your IRS payments, it most often comes back to poor financial mismanagement. You owe back taxes because you earned money and neglected to pay the government its share. Pretty simple.
I never asked voters to let me monitor the county’s $1.4 billion budget. Candidate Gaughan is asking us exactly that, and how he has handled his tax debt disqualifies him from serving as Comptroller of Erie County.
But that's not all: there are stories alleging Gaughan’s financial impropriety buzzing around Hamburg, where he has written a lot of checks to local businesses. He apparently has a record of stiffing people, too.
PoliticsNY.net has obtained a letter from Joan Adams, an Erie County Democratic Committeewoman and president of the Cedargrove Action Committee. She tells the story of how Gaughan invited her and many other activists to a local restaurant in 2010 to discuss downsizing Cheektowaga over coffee. He gave his spiel, then left in a hurry. The group departed, only to be stopped by their waitress. Gaughan had left without paying the bill.
According to Adams, all the attendees thought Gaughan had paid for the coffee and sodas since he had called the meeting. The whole group had to stand at the cash register, digging through their pockets and purses. “It was totally humiliating,” she wrote. She doesn't mince words about her party's candidate:
We have heard since that we are not the first - that Mr. Gaughan leaves a trail of debts, unpaid bills and stiffing people everywhere he goes and leaves the bad taste in his wake. After what happened that night at Altons, nobody wanted to have anything to do with him.
Now he wants to be our Comptroller and watch over our county tax dollars? No thank you. I am a proud Democrat and a committeewoman and want no part of this man anywhere near County Hall. I am not the only one here in Cheektowaga who feels this way.
Worse, Gaughan refuses to take personal responsibility. Ever. In the October 22 Buffalo News story Gaughan even drags his dead mother into his IRS excuse making:
“I have written an apology to the IRS for my caring for my mother precluding me from making timely payments,” he said Tuesday…“I ask [voters] to also weigh that I have made my obligations to my family and the government.”
What can you say about that kind of statement? If nothing else, voters should punish Gaughan for his mealy-mouthed excuse that his mother’s illness somehow caused his financial mismanagement. He blames his mother everywhere on the stump. Incumbent Comptroller Stefan Michajliw said it best after Gaughan did it again at a recent candidate forum in East Aurora:
“Losing a parent is a terrible thing. My mother passed away just a few months ago. It was a trying time for our family - but I still paid my taxes.”
The truth is, Gaughan is a terrible bookkeeper, too. If he were running to be a small town highway superintendent, I wouldn't worry so much. But he wants to control more than a billion dollars of taxpayers' money - the government job he is perhaps least qualified for of all.
And now we also know he cannot be trusted. I submit Gaughan’s tax debt, his lies about it, his maternal blame game, and his subsequent campaign missteps should prevent him from running for any public office. Ever.
Indeed, Gaughan’s tax arrears soured his campaign from the beginning. At first he refused to reveal his total IRS debt and even lied to Bob McCarthy of the Buffalo News, saying it was all paid off. It wasn’t. So why the Buffalo News believed him last week when he told them again he had paid in full, I’ll never know.
Does a Democrat who lied get a second chance to tell the truth - without a receipt?
When I said my taxes were paid, reporters asked me for my IRS Form 668(Z), a Certificate of Release. I provided it without delay. What proof did the Buffalo News get, beyond another air kiss from Gaughan? He could have lied to the News again, and perhaps even lied on his state election board filings.
Why not? We already know he's a liar - we just don't know his limits.
And another thing: who loaned Gaughan thousands of dollars to pay off his longstanding tax debt? No bank following standard procedure would loan him money, or he would have paid the IRS long ago to avoid all this embarrassment. IF - and that's a big IF - he paid his taxes, it is far more likely that a private person loaned him the cash, and that might constitute an election law violation.
The public should assume Kevin Gaughan has not paid his taxes until he provides incontrovertible proof from the federal government – a Form 668(Z) or another IRS document. If truly he paid, he has that document.
Voters also want to know who loaned Gaughan the money to pay off his tax debt. If it was a bank, there are likely many locals who would line up for some of that easy money. If it was a person – who was it, how much and what did Gaughan have to promise in return?
Until he comes clean, taxpayers should not give Kevin Gaughan another look, and certainly not their vote. He is unworthy. And while tax debt doesn't necessarily disqualify a person from running for public office, Gaughan's bungled coverup proves he should never run for public office again.