Early last week Shannon Hader and Jason Rittereiser released their tax returns. The two Democrats are running for Congress in Washington's 8th District to fill the seat vacated by Republican Congressman Dave Reichert, who is bad. Hader gave The Stranger her 2017 returns, and Rittereiser handed over his returns from 2016 and 2017. (Rittereiser was the only candidate to give two years' worth.) These releases follow Kim Schrier's decision to reveal her 2017 returns two weeks ago, though a spokesperson for Rittereiser's campaign told me the candidate has "always intended to release his tax returns."
Dino Rossi, the lone Republican in the race so far, has not released his tax returns. He didn't release his returns when asked in 2004, 2008, or 2010, either. He often dismisses the request by saying he always files the requisite financial disclosure forms. Rossi did not respond to two requests for his returns this year, and I don't suspect he'll change his mind any time soon. We'll get into why later, but for now let's see what we can learn from Hader's and Rittereiser's tax returns.
First up we have Jason Rittereiser, former King County prosecutor and favorite son of Ellensburg. While he was lawyering and his wife was dietitian-ing in 2016, the couple pulled in $234,084. After $20,884 in itemized deductions and $8,100 in exemptions, the tax worked out to $44,414. But they had $52,374 withheld, so they ended up with a refund of $7,960.
And then somebody got a fuckin' raise, because the next year they made $298,750. Tax on that ended up being $67,585 after $12,700 in deductions and $8,100 in exemptions. They had $70,194 withheld and so ended up overpaying $2,609.
Shannon Hader, a former manager at the Centers for Disease Control and a favorite daughter of Auburn, makes more as a single filer than Rittereiser and his wife's combined incomes in 2016.
In 2017 Hader earned $238,545. She deducted medical expenses, SALT, $22,222 in mortgage interest, and $220 in charity. She was taxed at $47,791, but she already paid $58,488, and so she got a check for $10,697. She also got $2,735 back in Georgia state taxes.
What does it all mean? The average household income in the district is just shy of $80,000. So the top Democrats in the race haul in three times (or nearly three times) more money per year than the families they want to represent. At $210,041, the Schrier family made the least amount of money last year, but lots of it comes from investments, and who knows what previous years looked like. These are upper-middle class people with upper-middle class jobs, but they're all working to serve people who need help. The returns also suggest that the candidates are willing to be transparent about at least one or two years of their earnings, though I did ask for more.
But Dino Rossi, like Donald Trump, doesn't seem to value transparency as much as his potential opponents do. Though he won't tell me why he's not releasing his returns, it's pretty easy to take a guess. Rossi, like Donald Trump, works in commercial real estate. And the Trump tax cuts aren't just good for commercial realtors. They're fucking fantastic for commercial realtors.
I know it must seem like ages ago, but do you remember the "Corker Kickback?" Bob Corker, the retiring Republican Senator from Tennessee, was threatening to vote NO on the tax bill. In order to get his vote, Republicans slipped in an amendment offering "a special tax cut to LLCs with few employees and large amounts of depreciable property assets, namely buildings: rent generating apartment and office buildings," according to the International Business Times. Corker owns "millions of dollars of ownership stakes in real-estate related LLCs." Though he claimed he didn't read the bill, he switched to a YES after this provision was added.
The Corker Kickback didn't just benefit Corker. IBT reported that 13 other Congressmen "directly sculpting the bill—including U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan—have between $36 million and $163 million worth of ownership stakes in real estate-related LLCs. Those entities generated between $2.6 million and $16 million in 'pass through' income and could benefit from the new provision."
A few days after the IBT discovered the Corker Kickback, Rossi told the Times that it's "highly likely" he would have voted for the bill.
A somewhat more definitive statement from @DinoRossiWA's campaign manager on the #TaxBill. "Highly likely" he would support it, but he's on family vacation. #wa08 #waelex pic.twitter.com/TdvApzCJKQ
— Jim Brunner (@Jim_Brunner) December 21, 2017
It's "highly likely" Dino Rossi would have voted for the bill because he and the Everett-based commercial real estate firm he works for, Coast Equity Partners, also stood to benefit from the Corker Kickback.
But without seeing Rossi's tax returns, it's hard to know exactly how rich he and his old white buddies are going to get off these tax cuts. That's because the financial disclosure forms that politicians fill out only require them to select their income from a range of possible incomes. According to the Seattle Times, in 2010 Rossi owned "property and other investments worth between $4,395,000 and $15 million," and he made between "$100,001 and $1 million" in income from the commercial real estate firm. He reported bringing in "$380,000 and $1.5 million" total.
Rossi's reluctance to release his tax returns reflects his essential character as a politician. He's skeptical about town halls. He hides even lightly critical comments on his Facebook page. He dodges every hard question he's asked. This is a guy who doesn't want you to see behind the curtain. Why would the good people of the 8th District trust such a shifty and shadowy commercial realtor to check the Presidential power of an even shiftier and shadowier commercial realtor? And if Rossi can't even be forthcoming about his taxes, how is he going to be forthcoming about the real problems facing the district?