The Colorado Sun’s newest political reporter Daniel Ducassi reports on a lawsuit that ought to be getting much more attention: Billionaire and leading Republican funder Phil Anschutz, who also owns among many, many other things the Gazette family of right-leaning media outlets plowing big money into carving out a share of local news consumption, is suing the state of Colorado to recover tax money he doesn’t think he needed to pay in retrospect:
The [Anschutzes] argue that due to changes to federal tax law made as part of Congress’ 2020 pandemic response bill, the CARES Act, Colorado’s tax law was changed as well, allowing him and his wife to claim a refund on their 2018 state income tax bill.
But lawyers with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which is representing the Department of Revenue in the case, argue the Anschutzes are pushing an unreasonable interpretation of Colorado’s tax laws, and are asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. The state’s lawyers also argue that if the court sides with the Anschutzes, it could sow fiscal chaos in how the state collects and refunds tax revenue…
Forbes ranked Phil Anschutz 50th on its 2020 list of wealthiest Americans, with an estimated net worth of more than $10 billion (it could be much higher after he recently sold his minority stake in the Los Angeles Lakers). He owns The Broadmoor hotel and resort in Colorado Springs, as well as several Colorado media outlets, including The Gazette, based in Colorado Springs, and Colorado Politics. He’s also part owner of the Los Angeles Kings, and owns the stadium they play in, the Staples Center, in downtown Los Angeles through his Anschutz Entertainment Group.
Because of Anschutz’s ginormous personal wealth equal to (random example) almost a third of the state’s budget, having to unexpectedly refund this undisclosed but could be quite sizable amount of money he alleges was overpaid on his taxes could create a legitimate fiscal problem for the state–meaning cuts to state programs and services that could make the state’s leading philanthropist look like a heartless skinflint.
And then there’s this little wrinkle:
[S]tate lawyers also warn of dire consequences for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refund requirements should the court side with the Anschutzes. In 2019, for instance, the state had to refund hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue because of TABOR’s limits on government growth and spending.
The Anschutzes’ interpretation, the state’s lawyers argue, would mean Colorado shouldn’t have paid out as much in refunds, if anything at all, [Pols emphasis] because the CARES Act changes would have reduced the state’s revenue for that tax year.
Colorado Republican insiders should sit down and process this one: Phil Anschutz is suing to claw back a confidential but presumably large amount of Colorado tax dollars, and if he wins, it could reduce or eliminate future TABOR refunds to Colorado taxpayers in addition to causing budgetary chaos to close the retroactively created gap. This has to be one of the most delicious political ironies to afflict Colorado Republicans since TABOR author Doug Bruce’s conviction for tax evasion (yes, for the uninitiated, that happened).
In the event Anschutz prevails in his lawsuit, and ends up reducing TABOR refund money that Republicans are right now gearing up for battle over to protect their on-average $50 checks to taxpayers, the question presents itself: how are Republicans supposed to message that for voters in the 2022 elections?
We don’t even think the Gazette’s unhinged editorial board can spin this.