Democrat @JaredPolis doesn’t want #Colorado voters to know that he avoided paying taxes with an offshore Cayman Island account. Watch the TV ad that Polis is desperate for you not to see. #COpolitics pic.twitter.com/nqMn6k97pe
— The RGA (@The_RGA) September 12, 2018
A new-ish ad running from the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) (above) attacks Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis for allegedly “not paying taxes” for a number of years, and stashing funds offshore in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands. Not paying one’s fair share of taxes is a common allegation made against wealthy political candidates on both sides, sometimes quite damagingly (see: Romney, Mitt).
But in Rep. Polis’ case, as the Denver Post’s editorial board did a surprisingly good job explaining yesterday, it’s a warmed-over hit job with no factual basis:
The television ad makes it sound like Polis has used clever accounting tricks, specifically off-shore accounts that shelter money from the IRS, to avoid paying federal income taxes.
The Denver Post’s reporters have never found evidence of such behavior in Polis’ lengthy financial disclosures required by Congress or in the tax documents he voluntarily disclosed when he ran for Congress in 2008. [Pols emphasis]
The Denver Post’s Jon Murray reported that in the four years spanning 2001 to 2005, Polis reported “a net loss of income.” Murray noted that in other years “Polis paid more than $18.4 million in income taxes on more than $120 million in adjusted gross income.”
As for the ad’s juicy claim that Polis stashed money in the Cayman Islands? The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Ernest Luning joins in the debunking:
As for any “offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes,” a Polis campaign spokeswoman pointed to reporting from 2008, when Polis acknowledged holdings in a company that also maintained a fund in the Cayman Islands for international investors, but said he never had any money in the Cayman fund.
During his run for Congress in 2008, Rep. Polis disclosed all of these financial details–documenting the growth of his personal fortune as well as the years in which he didn’t owe taxes due to investment losses. There was heavy scrutiny of those disclosures by Polis’ opponents in that race, and news reports that validated Polis’ version of all these uncontroversial events.
There’s been tremendous turnover in local media in the ten years between Polis’ run for Congress and his bid for governor, but the RGA made a big mistake in assuming nobody would remember that these details in Polis’ financial history had all been disclosed and questions resolved back in 2008. It’s another case of political operatives knowing an allegation is false, making it anyway, and counting on the new allegation getting more attention than the debunking. Call it “post-truth” politics, which have become the norm in the era of Cory Gardner and Donald Trump.
What we’re seeing here, much like the local media’s revolt against Walker Stapleton’s false ads in the primary or a similar case in 2016 where false and racist attacks against now-Sen. Rachel Zenzinger were audaciously recycled by Republicans–not to mention yesterday’s bizarre “black is white” botched attack on Democratic AG candidate Phil Weiser–is the knowing deception becoming too brazen for even the most complaisant voices to tolerate.
At long last, “post-truth” politics appears to be backfiring in Colorado. That’s a welcome development.