Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Simon's Mini-Disclosure

July 24, 2002

There is a reason wealthy business executives--think Al Checchi--have not done well over the years at winning high office in California, especially the governorship. Running a company or investing the family fortune, even if the executive is fabulously successful at it, is very different from heading a government. Bill Simon Jr., the GOP candidate for governor, illustrated that gap Monday when he grudgingly made his income tax returns public--sort of.

Simon, whose job is shepherding the family money, insisted for months that no law required him to make the returns public. He is right about the law. But once an executive, movie star or plumber announces for public office, he or she gives up considerable privacy. It is standard these days for candidates to release their income tax returns, allowing voters to judge whether the candidate paid a fair share of taxes--Simon seems to have--and whether sources of income could generate conflicts of interest with official duties.

Simon has never held public office, so he has no record by which voters can judge him. Since business success is offered as his principal credential, voters deserve to know how he did it and how well he did it. Simon has been reluctant to discuss his finances at all.

After the Internal Revenue Service revealed this month that it was investigating whether an offshore tax shelter in which Simon invested was illegal, the pressure intensified. However, Simon could hardly have made the "release" less helpful.

Aides turned over more than 1,000 pages of tax documents to reporters, who, barred from using cameras and recorders, got to look at them for only two hours. No help allowed from accountants or tax lawyers, either. The reporters had to use blank pages given them by the campaign, not their own notebooks. The whole weird ritual smacked of a college blue book test, except it was Simon continuing to try to cheat voters out of a full picture.

The reporters learned that Simon paid about $8.6 million in federal taxes on $36 million in income from family trusts, partnerships and interest and dividends for the years 1990 to 2000. There were pages of income reports, such as the salary Simon receives from the family investment firm, but little information about the ultimate sources of the money, at least not for any reporter without expertise in accounting or investing. The returns also revealed nothing meaningful about the family trust itself, about where its investments might be concentrated and what fees and taxes it paid.

Businessman-candidate Simon did not engender any trust for himself with his tax return stunt.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|