Dems press Pearce on tax returns

GOP candidate says 2017 info coming soon, but Democrats want 5 years of data

By Tripp Stelnicki
tstelnicki@sfnewmexican.com
Posted 10/5/18

Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce's tax returns likely will be in the crosshairs of Democrats seeking to bury the Hobbs congressman before the Nov. 6 finish of the race to succeed …

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Dems press Pearce on tax returns

GOP candidate says 2017 info coming soon, but Democrats want 5 years of data

Posted

Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce's tax returns likely will be in the crosshairs of Democrats seeking to bury the Hobbs congressman before the Nov. 6 finish of the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Susana Martinez.

Pearce has said he will release his 2017 return sometime this month. But with early voters across the state set to begin casting ballots at county clerks' offices in less than a week, state Democrats contend the fact that tax documents are still missing amounts to an effort to conceal his considerable personal wealth. And in recent days they have ramped up the volume of their critique.

"New Mexicans deserve transparency from their leaders, and that means five years of Steve Pearce's income tax returns right now," said Marg Elliston, who chairs the state Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the state party has sought to highlight what it says is the "accountability" of Democratic nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham, who released five years of tax returns under pressure from her rivals in the Democratic primary earlier this year.

Pearce, who didn't have a Republican primary opponent, said late last month he would release one year of his tax returns -- but not immediately.

In a recent interview, he said the 2017 return was "being held up."

"We obviously have a fairly complex return," said the candidate, who grew up poor but made a fortune with an oilfield services company he founded.

Pearce, who has been reported to be among the richest members of Congress, said information from "four or five other companies" was needed before his report could be completed. Those companies filed for six-month extensions, he said. The Internal Revenue Service deadline for those extensions to expire is Oct. 15.

Asked about past years' tax returns, he said, "We're not required to do it. We're doing everything legally we're required to do. This is above and beyond the law. And we just feel like I made the offer to release that, and we will."

New Mexico gubernatorial candidates have not traditionally released tax returns, but the issue has gained traction in state-level political contests since President Donald Trump broke with custom for presidential candidates and refused to make public his returns in 2016.

Lujan Grisham, like Pearce, declined to provide tax returns when initially asked in May by The New Mexican, instead pointing to the contents of considerably more vague congressional financial disclosure forms.

Shortly thereafter, however, she unveiled five years of returns amid mounting attacks from her rivals in the Democratic primary, who seized on a Politico report about her role in helping to manage the state's high-risk insurance pool with Delta Consulting Group to question her financial dealings.

The returns showed she had understated her "passive income" from Delta Consulting Group in 2013 on the congressional forms. A spokesperson told Politico the inconsistency was an "honest mistake."

Pearce's annual financial disclosure forms filed earlier this year said his assets for 2017 were somewhere between $7.5 million and

$36.3 million (the congressional forms require only a range, not a specific dollar amount).

Lujan Grisham's campaign said Pearce should release the five-year equivalent of what Lujan Grisham released and pointed to a comment Pearce made, according to an Associated Press report in June, that he would divulge tax returns if Lujan Grisham divulged hers.

"New Mexico voters deserve to know what Pearce is hiding from them with this deceitful behavior," campaign spokesman James Hallinan said.

Pearce's camp shot back that Lujan Grisham had not released documentation of how her consulting group "scored" the contract to manage the high-risk pool. The state superintendent of insurance has said Delta has won contracts through competitive bidding processes.

"Michelle Lujan Grisham will do anything to distract from her scandalous crony contracts with the high-risk insurance pool," Pearce spokesman Kevin Sheridan said.

The state Democratic Party did incorrectly assert, in one of its email blasts, that Pearce had "demanded" Lujan Grisham release her returns. Asked to identify when Pearce had made such a demand, Joel Kasnetz, a party spokesman, said, "It could've been clearer on our part."

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