Sunday, July 20, 2008

Where’s Norm Coleman Press Release on Tax Fairness ?

Republican Senator Norm Coleman is a PR machine … so when Norm doesn’t issue one there must be a reason.

So far this month, there have been thirteen, such as :
--- FEDERAL SUPPORT FOR MINNESOTA CRITICAL-NEED LANGUAGE PROGRAMS (somewhat notable since Senator Obama has been criticized for encouraging foreign languages, yet, Coleman states “Allowing our young people to become more connected with the global community will not only enrich students’ education, it will strengthen America’s place in the world for years to come.”);
--- SENATOR COLEMAN ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR HOMELESS VETS CENTER IN ST. CLOUD (somewhat notable since Representative Michele Bachmann has taken the “No Earmark” pledge and St. Cloud is in her district.);
--- COLEMAN, LANDRIEU, BAYH ASK SEC. RICE TO NEGOTIATE WITH VIETNAM ON INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION (somewhat notable since Coleman does not acknowledge that other members of the Minnesota delegation also signed the letter … including Jim Oberstar immediately below Coleman’s signature, Amy Klobuchar on the same page as Coleman, then after the other Senators starts Tim Walz on page 7, Keith Ellison on page 8, John Kline and Betty McCollum on page 10 and finally Collin Peterson on page 11. Absent are Michele Bachmann and Jim Ramstad and for those that complain about how the presidential campaign has affected the involvement of the principles, Barack Obama signed the letter while John McCain did not.);
--- BILLINGS USED DEAD DOCTORS' NAMES (notable because this involved Coleman’s role on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.)

What a second … wasn’t there some other notable news from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations this week ?

Yes, there was … on Thursday, the Tax Haven Banks and U.S. Tax Compliance hearing was held.

From news reports : Wealthy Americans are hiding about 1.5 trillion dollars in overseas tax havens in a "deceptive" partnership with top foreign banks such as UBS, resulting in 100 billion dollars in lost US tax revenue.
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) asked the fundamental question : Why would a U.S. taxpayer open a UBS account in Switzerland, when it could bank with UBS right here in the United States? Why would 19,000 U.S. clients with nearly $18 billion in assets choose to open Swiss accounts?

And that’s just one bank.
Think about it … that’s millions of dollars in each account ! Dollars that should be going to pay for the Global War on Terror and reducing the national debt.

Senator Coleman said, “It is simply unacceptable that some individuals are using offshore tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions to shelter trillions of dollars from taxation, forcing working families to shoulder the tax burden. By exploiting gaping loopholes, these foreign banks are enabling felony tax evasion. Simply put, foreign banks should not be Al Capone safe-houses for evading taxes. Closing these loopholes means we must strengthen reporting requirements, broaden the scope of the audit program, and extend the amount of time the IRS has to investigate cases involving an offshore tax haven.”

I think all of us can agree with Senator Coleman’s statement, yet I have to ask two questions :
This story has been rumbling around for years, so why did it take until Senator Levin took over as Chairman of the Subcommittee to get the investigation moving?
Why hasn’t Coleman issued a press release reporting these findings ?

I can only speculate that the answers to both questions are the same --- it might be embarrassing for Senator Coleman and for others.

Coleman was thrilled to get his assignment in 2003 to be the Chairman of the Subcommittee. Others have identified at least 18 oversight opportunities that Coleman did not investigate, so I will not go into detail on this. Suffice it to say, that the Republican Congress allowed the Executive Branch to operate without oversight wasting billions of dollars, lives, and America’s standing in the world. By his assignment, Coleman is complicit in those failings.

But the second question is more relevant.
By issuing a press release Coleman would be further highlighting people that may be problematic for the political parties. After all, bundlers and campaigns need money and where do you get money but from the affluent. The violator’s names are not listed, but I am sure that many have contributed to members of both political parties.
And as who those people may be mystery at this time, it is not surprising to hear the name of Cindy McCain being mentioned in the blogosphere. With an estimated wealth of $100 Million (before the InBev buyout), she certainly would fit the mold of a candidate that could use UBS’s Private Wealth Division. Add to that, that Phil Gramm, who until Friday was John McCain’s campaign co-chair, is vice-chairman of UBS Investment Bank and a former lobbyist on behalf of UBS. (Note : this is not the UBS division that is involved with the offshore tax haven scandal, but it would be surprising that a US vice-chairman would not be aware of his company’s Private Wealth Division.) It would be wise for Mrs. McCain to release her complete tax returns for the past ten years. It would be also advisable for every member of the current Congress, and every candidate for this upcoming election, issue a statement whether they have investments in offshore bank accounts.

$100 billion dollars in lost revenue is a lot of money. As the candidates talk about issues that voters can relate … like the impact of the rising cost of a gallon of gas and the cost of health insurance, we must talk to them about tax fairness. We struggle though life -- struggle with tax forms -- paying our fair share, but some have access to hid their income.

Coleman’s right when he says that it is wrong for ”working families to shoulder the tax burden” … now the question, what will Coleman do about it ?

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