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Reed defends disclosure of tax mistake
Rochester, N.Y. -- Congressman Tom Reed is defending his actions after discovering a mistake in paying his taxes. Democrats are filing a complaint, asking for further investigation into Reed's records.
13WHAM News broke the news last month that Reed made a property tax payment of $4,247.83 using his campaign funds. Reed explained that when the error was discovered, he immediately reported it and paid back the campaign fund, paying the property taxes with his own money.
It is illegal for politicians to pay for personal expenses using campaign funds.
Democrats point out that this news came on the heels of news that Reed was also late paying his property taxes 38 times over much of a decade. Reed has noted that each time he was late paying taxes, he quickly completed the payments and occasionally paid penalties.
"There's a pattern of incompetence at the very least," said Martha Robertson, a Democrat challenging Reed for his seat in 2014. "We should wonder what other mistakes he's made. He needs to open his books."
She said that taxpayers ought to be concerned that a member of Congress was so routinely delinquent handling his own tax bills.
The head of the Ontario County Democrats has requested a federal review, and Robertson adds that she wants Reed to open all of his books so taxpayers can evaluate the way he handles money.
"We welcome this review," Reed said Monday morning on a conference call. "When this happened about a year and a half ago, we self-reported it. We disclosed it. We put the additional memo into the record, and we obviously want to make sure we get to the bottom of this review, because I think that review will show there was a mistake, we reported it, we corrected it, and we made changes to make sure it doesn't happen again."
The change that Reed refers to is a simple one: Reed will no longer physically handle his campaign checkbook. Regarding how he paid his property taxes with campaign money, he said about the checkbooks, "They were in a similar -- they were in a folder, and they looked exactly the same. And I accidentally grabbed the wrong check, is what happened." Reed said he is aware that it's illegal to use campaign funds this way, but called it an honest mistake with a quick correction.
One specific point raised by Ontario County Democrats is the wording used when Reed disclosed his own error. The Democrats say the wording appears to be cryptic, riddled with abbreviations. They wonder if it was designed to hide the nature of the disclosure. Reed offered a simple response: The online reporting form, he explained, has limited space. "You're restricted in the number of characters you can use. That's why we also thought it was important to file, concurrently, an independent memo detailing the disbursement even further."
"If he has nothing to hide, he'll allow for a wider accounting," Robertson said. "I can't imagine making so many mistakes on taxes. It raises serious questions."
Reed feels the pointed nature of Democrats' inquiry might be political. "It is kind of the start of political silly season," he said. "But we're happy to cooperate."
And while he was at it, Reed leveled some rough words of his own for his opponent. Reed criticized Robertson for welcoming Peter Yarrow to perform at an upcoming fundraiser. Yarrow, of Peter, Paul & Mary fame, was convicted of inappropriate contact with a 14-year-old girl in 1970. Reed described Yarrow as a "pedophile," and asked why his opponent would have a child molester help headline an event.
"I'm not going to dignify that by making a comment," Robertson told 13WHAM News.