Will income taxes really hurt Terrence Wall?


At first the headline sounded dramatic. “Terrence Wall has not paid state income taxes.” I remember getting a call from a member of a Democratic campaign, who told me the news. It sounded so incredible. It sounded like tax evasion, which is how the Democrats want it to sound like.

But alas, one can avoid state income taxes and not be a tax evader. In Wall’s case, he simply had no income tax liability.

But the press releases keep coming and the blog posts keep publishing. The Democrats are going to try and take this meme as far as it goes. I don’t blame them for it – a tax dodger millionaire is the perfect punching bag for a candidate as squeaky clean as Russ Feingold. But the attack is nevertheless disingenuous, and if handled correctly by the Wall campaign, is liable to backfire on the Dems. The GOP has already responded by saying that Wall and his company pay the state millions of dollars in taxes, and that Wall makes up for the income taxes with other taxes, including charitable contributions.

I think the Democrats could take this talking point a lot further if they used it to criticize the system “in which a millionaire like Terrence Wall pays no income taxes,” rather than insinuating that he is a tax cheat. It wouldn’t look as dirty because it would give state-level Democrats the opportunity to propose policy, rather than simply to slime an opponent. The problem is that Russ Feingold is not a state-level candidate, and the issue is state taxes.

Any thoughts? Will Feingold go after Wall himself?

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6 Responses to “Will income taxes really hurt Terrence Wall?”

  1. Paul A. Says:

    Will Feingold go after Wall himself? No, I don’t think so. Feingold’s a well-entrenched incumbent with high positives. Feingold has no good reason to actively go after Wall; he’s got his record to campaign off of, and he’s not behind in the polls.

    Since it is a state tax issue, there’s really no need for Russ to actually attack Wall; if anything, the senator might make comments about the need to have a realistic, common-sense, progressive tax scheme at the national level, but he’s made comments like that for years.

    “The GOP has already responded by saying that Wall and his company pay the state millions of dollars in taxes, and that Wall makes up for the income taxes with other taxes, including charitable contributions.”

    As for the GOP response, it’s not that great. In essence they’re saying, “Because Terrence Wall owns a company, he pays a lot of business tax and other taxes, so he shouldn’t have to pay personal income taxes.” Well, that may be one’s belief on how the tax system should be set up, but rules is rules. You have to pay to the appropriate tax. I also like how “charitable contributions” is filed in with “other taxes,” though that might just be your wording, Jack. But I find it a poignant examination of the hypocrisy of some of the wealthy conservative.

  2. Jim Says:

    Here’s my response to a comment at Pretty Important today. I thought I had something in it stating the laws should be changed so people making 3+ million DO have to pay taxes, but I must have removed that.

    From a Journal Sentinel blog, Wall said;
    “If you are an investor and are willing to take a risk, if you are willing to put capital to work to grow businesses and to create jobs, state government gives you a tax credit for doing that, for taking that risk, because you are going to incur losses at some point, undoubtedly.”

    My problem is that when his income is over $3 million, he obviously didn’t “incur losses.” He made money. Income. And a lot of it. Why shouldn’t he have to pay taxes on it? It was perfectly legal, but I want my Senator to pay taxes like everyone else.

    • Jack Says:

      I don’t think too many people disagree –– the thing is there’s always going to keep loopholes in tax law for people to jump through. As much as we may want, the government can’t just say “dude, you’re rich, pay up.”

  3. Anonymous Says:

    This is not going to backfire on the Dems for one simple reason: The GOP appears to be running on nothing but populist rage. Feingold doesn’t need to attack Wall – he’ll do a good enough job on his own demonstrating how much of an out-of-touch millionaire he is.

  4. Anon Says:

    I don’t know if Feingold even has to put out much on this topic. The media and bloggers are doing their own digging, and it has snowballed into a story that people are going to follow. Feingold should stay above this, and let Terrence Wall defeat himself.

    I haven’t seen any good press regarding Wall, so why should Feingold stoop down when he can keep his “squeaky clean” image intact?

    His image of a rich slick who decided to try his hand in politics is going to do enough damage by itself. Russ is smart to stick to policy.

  5. Bea Says:

    Can’t see how it will help him in the slightest.
    His speaking voice is another strike against him.

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