Republican recall candidates whine about taxes but pay little to nothing

Corey Liebmann

One of the most frequent complaints we hear from Republicans is that their tax burdens are too high. It’s a GOP talking point that turns up in nearly every election, regardless of the actual data or the historical record. So it is certainly no surprise to hear many of the Republicans running in recall elections this summer complaining about their tax burden.

But it might surprise voters in Wisconsin to know that some of the candidates whining about taxes actually pay little to nothing in net income tax to the state.

Perhaps the most outrageous Republican recall candidate is current state Sen. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac. He’s already in hot water with voters for running as a “family values” candidate and then leaving his wife to move in with his then 25-year-old aide in 2010. (Hopper and his mistress Valerie Cass are pictured).

But Hopper’s hypocrisy doesn’t end at the marriage altar. In 2008 his hometown newspaper, the Fond du Lac Reporter, highlighted that the wealthy senator had only paid Wisconsin personal and business taxes once since 1997. The one time that he did pay, it was a capital gains tax resulting from the sale of one of his radio stations.

State Sens. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, and Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, will also face recall elections this summer. Like Hopper, they rant against the high tax burden that they allegedly face. Both senators’ Statement of Economic Interest forms demonstrate a vast array of investments and personal business interests. Yet various media outlets have reported that both senators have had recent years when they owed no net income tax to the state.  For Kapanke it happened in 2008, and for Robert Cowles it was in both 2008 and in 2009. 

This phenomenon also extends to some of the Republicans’ first-time candidates this summer. Kim Simac, who is mounting a challenge to Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Conover, is the founder of a Tea Party group that makes railing against taxes its highest priority.  A Dun & Bradstreet profile estimates that Simac’s family business, the Great Northern Adventure Company, earns approximately $300,000 in annual sales.  Yet Wisconsin Department of Revenue records show that Simac paid zero net income tax to the state in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008. Records show that in 2000 she paid a total of $4 in net state income taxes. In 2007, her tax bill was a single dollar.

Any complaint that Simac has about being overtaxed shouldn’t garner much sympathy.

Jonathan Steitz is a corporate attorney working for a firm in Chicago.  If he wins his primary this month, he will go on to face Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, in August. Like Simac, Steitz is a first-time candidate. But that’s not the only similarity they share. Records show that Jonathan Steitz owed no state net tax in either 2008 or in 2009.  But that doesn’t stop him from repeatedly bemoaning the allegedly high tax burden that he claims to have faced in Wisconsin.  

The point here is not to suggest that any of these Republican candidates did anything illegal. But voters deserve an explanation as to how most working people pay more in a single paycheck than some of these whining Republicans have paid over the course of several years. These candidates must be called on their hypocrisy.