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ICYMI: Wealthy GOP Hopefuls … Raise Tax Questions [The Messenger]

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The Messenger: Wealthy GOP Hopefuls … Raise Tax Questions
Recruiting rich candidates means a bigger paper trail
By Matt Holt
August 14, 2023

  • Senate Republican candidates over the last few election cycles have been outraised by their Democratic opponents, so this cycle, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has prioritized recruiting wealthy candidates.. 
  • In Montana, Republicans have recruited retired Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy, the CEO of Bridger Aerospace, an aerial firefighting company worth around $300 million. In West Virginia, they are backing Gov. Jim Justice, the wealthiest man in the state who oversees a coal and hospitality empire. And in Pennsylvania, the NRSC is attempting to lure former Bridgewater Associates CEO David McCormick back for another campaign — he narrowly lost the 2022 GOP primary.

  • …their sprawling finances, business dealings, and in some cases unpaid tax bills could provide fodder for their Democratic opponents. 
  • “Republicans are recruiting candidates with massive baggage and disqualifying vulnerabilities,” said DSCC spokesperson Tommy Garcia. He argued that their liabilities will bring about “vicious primaries” that will lead to Democrats keeping hold of the Senate.
  • [David McCormick’s] financial disclosure from the 2022 primary revealed that he earned $22.5 million in salary and owned multiple properties in Manhattan, Dallas, Colorado, and Pittsburgh, along with his family’s ranch in Pennsylvania that he highlighted throughout his campaign. He and his wife, Dina Powell McCormick, owned assets with a total value between $116 and $290 million. 
  • [McCormick] and his ex-wife held $39 million worth of assets, including six Credit Suisse bank accounts worth $4.3 million. The Swiss bank is famous for its banker-client confidentiality. 
  • The documents obtained were prepared on December 23, 2014….That was the same year the Senate released an extensive investigation that found Credit Suisse helped their American clients evade taxes. 
  • A McCormick aide did not respond to requests for comment for this article. 
  • The two-year investigation of the Swiss bank culminated in a 176-page report that charges that from at least 2001 to 2008, Credit Suisse helped its American customers evade taxes in many ways, including opening accounts in the name of shell companies as well as sending Swiss bankers to the United States to secretly recruit clients and service banks.
  • The report found that Credit Suisse exercised weak oversight of its policies for its U.S.-linked accounts. In 2002, the bank started a policy that called for its U.S. accounts to be opened by a single Swiss office, SALN, and their bankers were given special training in U.S. regulatory and tax requirements 
  • On May 19, 2014, the Department of Justice announced that Credit Suisse pleaded guilty “to conspiracy to aid and assists U.S. taxpayers in filing false income tax returns and other documents with the IRS.” 
  • Those who held Credit Suisse accounts included those involved in a “wide-ranging conspiracy” surrounding Venezuela’s oil company, an Algerian defense minister involved in human rights abuses, and Middle-eastern spy chiefs. Credit Suisse was also accused of laundering money for Bulgarian cocaine traffickers. 
  • McCormick, who lost to celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz by less than 1,000 votes in the GOP primary last year, was relentlessly attacked over Bridgewater’s investments in China and has recently come under scrutiny for his financial ties to Saudi Arabia. 
  • Sheehy brought the company public in 2023, merging with Jack Creek Investment Corp., a “blank check company” incorporated in the Cayman Islands. The deal valued Bridger at $869 million. 
  • The Caymans also are a tax haven for wealthy individuals, and companies are typically incorporated there to avoid paying income, capital gains, or corporate taxes.
  • Bridger Aerospace is incorporated in Delaware, like many other companies in the country. Corporations registered in Delaware can have their headquarters elsewhere in the U.S. and are exempt from state corporate income tax, and are drawn to the state due to their corporate secrecy laws. Montana has a 6.75% corporate income tax rate. 
  • The Sheehy campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

  • In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that Justice had put his coal businesses up for sale and that Justice’s empire had fallen on hard times as he was “personally on the hook for nearly $700 million in loans his coal companies took out from now-defunct Greensill Capital.” 
  • New reporting from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel found that a company owned by Justice and managed by his family has more than $124,000 in tax liens from the state tax division. 
  • Frontier Coal Company, owned by the Justice family in Wyoming County, owes more than $124,000 in “accrued coal reclamation tax payments” from March 31 of this year dating back to January 2021. 
  • An editorial in the Charleston Gazette-Mail published on December 21, 2022, said that Justice “is notorious for dodging fines, taxes, court settlements, fees and vendor costs associated with his businesses.” 
  • A story published in the West Virginia record in 2021 noted that Justice and his family owed nearly $100,000 in 2020 property taxes in McDowell County, mostly for real estate, vehicles, and business machinery. 
  • In May, the Club for Growth, who supports Justice’s primary rival, Rep. Alex Mooney, launched an ad calling Justice a “deadbeat billionaire” who is an “embarrassment” to West Virginia.

  • “Do we truly want someone who doesn’t pay his bills and accrues fines left and right to represent our great state,” Mooney posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on July 26. “Absolutely, not! West Virginians deserve better than this.”

  • The Justice campaign did not return requests for comment. 

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