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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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July 9, 2008 1:28 PM

Gregoire releases tax returns, but nothing from Rossi

Posted by David Postman

Gov. Chris Gregoire released three years of her family’s federal income tax returns today. The Gregoires’ total income has gone up from $162,290$129,073 in 2005, the governor’s first year in office, to $180,179 last year.

I’m not an accountant - boy, am I not an accountant - but there doesn’t look to be anything too fascinating in the returns. The family paid more than $32,000 $29,000 in total taxes on the 2007 income and made $9,260 in charitable gifts and donations.

In the three years I see only a one-time $10 capital loss.

Why ask the governor for the tax returns and write so little about what’s in there? We ask because we want to collect as much information as possible about candidates for governor.

Republican Dino Rossi has rejected requests to release his tax returns. This is what happened in 2004 as well; Gregoire released hers, Rossi didn’t.

The Rossi campaign says that the candidate has complied with all disclosure laws and filed a personal financial disclosure form this year with the Public Disclosure Commission. Spokeswoman Jill Strait said the candidate "will not release any more personal financial information."

There's no question that releasing tax returns is over and above what’s required by law. And a tax return from a career state employee and office-holder - whose salary is already public information - is likely to be less interesting than one from a businessman and real estate investor.

Those PDC forms, though, leave a lot to the imagination. Office holders, candidates and some appointed officials are required to file the reports. But income and investment numbers are reported only within ranges:

A -- $1 to $2,999 B -- $3,000 to $14,999 C -- $15,000 to $29,999 D -- $30,000 to $74,999 E -- $75,000 or more

Rossi’s filing shows three sources of income that qualify as an “E”: book sales, his salary from the non-profit Forward Washington, and apartment income. He has one “D,” rental income from a medical building.

But those “E” incomes could be - as we know, from other sources, about the non-profit salary - just about $75,000. Or they could up to any amount you could imagine. Or at least up to $1 billion, which would put him on Forbes’ list of the richest people in the world.

If you are a candidate with little wealth, the public will know about your finances with more specificity than if you are well-off. And if you’re super rich, you can pretty much keep that to yourself.

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