- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
'Ghosts' of '94 plague Corker
Feb 27, 2006 12:00 am
February 24, 2006
Ghosts of former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker's 1994 U.S. Senate bid are coming back to haunt his current campaign for the very same seat.
Corker's campaign was hit on two fronts Thursday, both of which were issues in his failed '94 Republican primary bid against Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Bob Tuke challenged Corker to explain his tax returns from 1985 and 1989 where Corker – a very successful contractor and real estate developer – apparently paid no federal income taxes. Tuke freely admitted the issue was part of the 1994 GOP primary, saying Corker should again "disclose" the circumstances surrounding the returns. Tuke also offered he did not believe Corker had broken any laws.
"I think Tennesseans pay their fair share of taxes, and they're entitled to know if candidates have found ways not to pay taxes," Tuke told The Lebanon Democrat on Thursday. "If that's the case, I just think that needs to be disclosed, and I know it was in '94. You know, if you're clever enough to do it before '94, maybe there's a way to do it after '94. I don't know."
The Democratic Party's release was sent out as a post on the party's www.gofortruth.com website, a source targeted at the Internet community of bloggers covering the Senate race.
Other Republicans challenging Corker in this year's Senate primary also questioned the former mayor's income tax returns from the 1980s after the Democratic Party's press release.
Van Hilleary campaign manager Jennifer Coxe said the issue brought into question Corker's electability.
"Mayor Bob Corker raised taxes on working Tennesseans multiple times," Coxe said. "Millionaire Bob Corker didn't pay taxes multiple times. A millionaire mayor who raises taxes on Tennesseans and didn't pay them is not electable."
Corker responded by explaining Tuke and the Democrats had gone back in their files and pulled up his personal tax returns his 1994 campaign released to the state's media covering the years between 1976 and 1994. Corker said the nature of his real estate business during those years meant he did not owe the federal government anything in either 1985 or 1989. He added he "voluntarily" sent checks of $7,500 and $5,000 to the Bureau of National Debt those two years. Corker also said between 1976 and 1994, he paid 26.98 percent of his income in taxes.
Tuke's release noted "average" Tennesseans paid about 15 percent in taxes each year.
"Here is what I think generally happened," Corker told The Democrat. "When you make capital investments in real estate and those kinds of things and there is also a lot of depreciation that goes with that, some years you owe a lot of money and some years you don't."
Another blast from the past also took the Corker campaign by surprise Thursday, reviving the now historic "pond scum" tag a Frist lieutenant saddled the Corker campaign with in a heated exchange.
Corker's campaign finance disclosures show his campaign has retained the services of Gary Maloney, one of the GOP's most feared campaign opposition researchers. It was the hiring of Maloney that sparked a Frist campaign staffer to publicly label Corker "pond scum" during the 1994 race.
Maloney's presence in this year's race was made public when an anonymous mailing that included Corker's disclosure showing payment to Malone's company was sent to media and GOP activists statewide.
Corker would not respond to the "anonymous" material, deferring questions to his campaign manager Ben Mitchell.
"To even respond to material like that is rewarding behavior that doesn't rise to the level of being appropriate for a race like this," Corker said.
Mitchell said he was confident all of the Senate campaigns in the state had employed some form of opposition research.
"This is going to be a competitive race," Mitchell said. "I think all candidates are going to run races where they want to know the public record so they can accurately convey that public record to the voters."
Managing Editor Clint Brewer can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 13 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.