As the race for Wisconsin's U.S. senate seat heats up and candidates head to a forum in Milwaukee Wednesday, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is calling for more transparency from the GOP candidates — namely, the party wants to see their tax returns.
So far, only the Hovde campaign has told Patch that it will release any tax returns, confirming that documents from the last two years are forthcoming.
During a conference call Wednesday morning, party Chairman Mike Tate praised Democratic candidate Tammy Baldwin for releasing 10 years' worth of returns. According to Tate, voters should know about the candidates' finances to see if they "stand to benefit" from tax cuts for the wealthy.
"As voters go to the polls in November, they deserve to know whether the candidates they send to Washington to fight for their livelihood are going to side with those forces that are working against the middle class, like hedge fund raiders and corporations that ship jobs overseas, or whether they are actually on their side in this fight," Tate said.
Tate drew on recent reports of the GOP candidates' finances, showing Eric Hovde with $50 million in assets, trailed by former governor Tommy Thompson with $13 million and Mark Neumann with more than $4 million. Though the candidates are not legally required to show these documents, Tate said they should be held to a higher standard.
"Are they fighting for their own interests or fighting for the middle class people of Wisconsin?" Tate said. "We deserve to know where their priorities are."
Tate also noted reports that Hovde's finances are tied up in a "a complex web of investment firms, holding companies, and stock portfolios," including an investment in the Cayman Islands.
"The public is in danger of heading into an election with a candidate who may or may not be taking advantage of the very tax loopholes and government subsidies that he decries," Tate said.
Hovde to release last two years' returns
Joe Fadness of the Hovde campaign told Patch Wednesday that it will follow the "standard practice" of releasing tax information from the last two years, but he claimed this is all a move by Baldwin to "incite class warfare."
He confirmed that some "finishing touches" are under way on the tax paperwork, which will be released "shortly."
While he could not provide concrete details about Hovde's Cayman Islands investments, Fadness said "the investments do not provide any personal tax benefit to Eric whatsoever."
To Tate's issues with GOP candidates' priorities, Fadness said Hovde supports "lower taxes across the board" to make things easier for "job creators."
Tate did not call for their tax returns by a certain deadline, adding that they "should have done it a long time ago."
Chip Englander, Mark Neumann's campaign manager, dismissed the call for released tax returns, noting Neumann's compliance with all requirements and calling this a distraction from the real issues.
Here's Englander's e-mailed statement to Patch Wednesday morning:
Liberal Democrats like Tammy Baldwin are desperate to distract attention away from the real issues, including Baldwin’s support of crippling federal debt and the tax hikes that are part of Obamacare. This hits middle-class taxpayers right in the wallet – but Baldwin and the Democrats would rather gin up some fake outrage, when they know full well Mark Neumann has complied with every financial disclosure requirement.
Englander did not indicate that Neumann would be releasing tax information.
Requests for comment from Thompson campaign were not immediately returned.
Same issue, different race
Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is surrounded in a similar controversy, with President Barack Obama airing ads about Romney's time at Bain Capital and allegations that Romney has money in so-called "tax havens" such as the Cayman Islands.
Romney has so far released his 2010 tax returns and plans to release them for 2011 when they are available. But, he has resisted pressure to release anything prior to 2010, including his time at Bain.
Check back at Patch.com for regular updates on the U.S. senate race.