In case you missed it, Congressman Brad Schneider is trying to play voters for fools, using “peek-a-boo paperwork” of only his 2013 tax return.
Notably, Brad Schneider has decided to file separately this year to avoid disclosing significant household income from his wife. This gamesmanship stands in stark contrast to the disclosed jointly filed returns of Bob Dold and his wife for years 2009-2013.
No doubt Brad Schneider will try to play this tax return joke on voters from now until Election Day while continuing to hide his more important 2011 and 2012 tax returns.
As Pat Quinn continues to drag down the Democratic ticket, Brad Schneider’s tax return stunt does little to earn voters’ trust that he isn’t just another secretive politician wheeling for his own interests.
Tax talk still swirls around Schneider despite disclosure (of sorts)
By Greg Hinz
August 18, 2014
After months of prompting, U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Deerfield, finally has released a copy of his income tax return — kind of.
But the disclosure covers only one year. And Mr. Schneider has abruptly changed his filing status in an apparent effort to keep his wealthy wife’s income private.
That means the income tax subject is likely to remain a significant issue in Mr. Schneider’s race this fall against the district’s former congressman, Republican Bob Dold.
The income tax issue first surfaced in 2012, when Mr. Dold was still in office. Mr. Dold released his returns and challenged Mr. Schneider to do the same, with his aides suggesting that the returns would show Mr. Schneider really wasn’t the successful businessman he claimed to be but pretty much lived off of the income from his wife, Julie Schneider, a senior managing director at Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc. here.
Mr. Dold since has renewed his challenge and Mr. Schneider eventually agreed to release his 2013 return — something that has become fairly standard in American politics. But he filed for an extension, and it wasn’t until just before the weekend that the Schneider campaign actually released anything.
What it released was not the return but a one-page summary, indicating that Mr. Schneider had federal adjusted gross income of $220,216 last year, tax liability of $60,678 after $28,000 in federal deductions, and received a $13,491 refund.
The Schneider campaign declined to provide a paper or electronic copy of the return that I could take back to my office to research. They did offer to let me and other reporters examine the return but said providing a copy would risk the release of confidential information, such as the congressman’s Social Security number — even if the number were blacked out on any copy.
In any event, with Mr. Schneider earning $174,000 just from his pay as a congressman, the report likely wouldn’t be worth examining. And, more to the point, Mr. Schneider filed separately from his wife, something that kept her income and earnings out of the public eye.
Jamie Patton, Mr. Schneider’s campaign manager, says that’s proper because “his wife has her own career and should be allowed privacy.” Beyond that, since all family investments are considered community property, Mr. Schneider has had to disclose some details of his financial holdings under House ethics rules, Ms. Patton adds.
But prior to 2013, the Schneiders always filed jointly, Ms. Patton confirms. Which means that less information is available than would have been had Mr. Schneider merely filed the same way he always had.
30 PAGES OF TRANSACTIONS
On the asset side, the Schneiders indeed are fairly well off, with total assets of at least $5 million and quite probably north of $10 million. Mr. Schneider’s last “transaction report” with the House ran a good 30 pages and included dozens of transactions in the $1,000 to $15,000 range. His asset disclosure, as tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington watchdog group, indicates the family owned shares in everything from Bob Evans Farm and United Airlines to real estate in Northbrook, Lake Bluff, Wilmette and Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, as well as other real estate investments in North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee and student apartments in West Lafayette, Indiana.
The value of those holdings is only estimated within a range on the reports filed with the House clerk. And exactly how they correspond to family income and how they effect the Schneiders’ total tax bill is impossible to determine without seeing Ms. Schneider’s return, too.
Ms. Patton says Mr. Schneider now has done what he promised — detailed his income and investments so voters can see if he has any conflicts. But the Dold campaign is not content, and neither, I suspect, will be many voters.
Says Dold campaign manager James Slepian in an email: “The fact that the one return he did release was from the period after he took office, when his salary was already public record, and that he took new measures to ensure the release did not even reveal his household income is yet another example of Brad Schneider making a mockery of the calls for transparency on taxes.”
Adds Mr. Slepian, “It paints a pretty clear picture of a politician who is trying to hide something.”
I don’t know if I’d go that far. But it doesn’t look good.