By Marc Kovac
A Democratic state senator and candidate for lieutenant governor said Wednesday he’s staying in the race, despite continued scrutiny and criticism of taxes he, his wife and his business owe.
State Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati also released spreadsheets and Internal Revenue Service documents outlining hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax liabilities.
During a midday conference call with reporters, he spent more than 90 minutes explaining the IRS account balance and tax liens, describing how he and his wife have worked to pay off the debt and providing what he called unprecedented access to private financial documents.
“I provided all of this information to the campaign,” Kearney said, adding of his candidacy as Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald’s running mate, “I’m in to stay. ... We’re in it all the way, and we’re going to see this through.”
FitzGerald announced Kearney as his choice for lieutenant governor two weeks ago. Shortly thereafter, news reports began outlining the candidate’s tax issues, many stemming from a media company he owns that publishes newspapers for black communities in Cincinnati, Dayton and elsewhere.
The papers have struggled during the recession in recent years with declining advertising revenue and circulation and have been subject to a series of tax liens, he said.
The total current amount owed is more than $700,000. That includes $560,000 owed by Kearney’s company, $85,000 owed by his wife and $86,000 from an old company.
Kearney said he and his wife have worked with the IRS on a payment plan; he provided transcripts to reporters detailing late taxes, interest and penalties and payments made.
“This is about a small business that went through tough times,” he said. “We faced those challenges. We accepted responsibility. ... We came through with a payment plan with the IRS, and I think that’s something that average Ohioans can understand and will accept.”
Kearney said he disclosed the tax issues to the FitzGerald campaign when it was considering adding him to the ticket.
But Republican critics question whether there are more tax liabilities or other financial issues yet to be disclosed.
“After two weeks FitzGerald finally provided documentation regarding his running mate’s issues and began answering basic questions,” Chris Schrimpf, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said in a released statement. “Despite this FitzGerald continues to say his running mate was fully vetted. In sum, we’ve learned that FitzGerald has exhibited terrible judgment and refuses to acknowledge it. We’ve learned that based on his first big test, FitzGerald fails to exhibit even basic competence.
He added, “Amazingly, FitzGerald’s campaign was disclosing new tax debts today, debts no one knew about for the last two weeks. It makes you wonder if there’s still more out there.”