Is it a crime to pay no taxes when you don't owe any? Apparently so, if you later find yourself running for office. As Tom Humphrey notes
in today's Knoxville News Sentinal
(registration necessary), Republicans have joined Democrats in jumping on GOP Senate hopeful Bob Corker
for paying no federal income taxes during a couple of years back in the 1980s. A spokeswoman for Van Hilleary
tees it up: "Millionaire Bob Corker didn't pay taxes in multiple years. Candidate Bob Corker owes Tennesseans an explanation." Ed Bryant
's press secretary piles on: "Bob Corker's ability to avoid paying taxes helps explain why it did not bother him to support a state income tax and to raise property taxes on Tennessee homeowners."
The Corker camp's response from campaign director Ben Mitchell: "It is not surprising to see the Democrat party make uninformed and false attacks, but it is surprising to see Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary follow the Democratic Party's lead." Perhaps it should be a non-story in a just and fair campaign world, but it isn't clear that the assault here (even if of dubious merit) is either "false" or "uninformed."
Corker's challenge is his lack of statewide identity--how many people outside Hamilton County can name the former* mayor of Chattanooga? Word on the street is he's weeks away from opening his $4 million campaign war chest for an ad blitz aimed (the theory goes) at overtaking Hilleary and Bryant, his better-known but underfunded GOP opponents. This 80s tax thing runs the risk, given wider attention, of building unsavory name recognition before Corker has the opportunity to buy the kind he wants.