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posted: 5/19/2010 12:01 AM

GOP candidate for lt. gov. won't release taxes

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  • Jason Plummer

      Jason Plummer

 

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois' Republican candidate for lieutenant governor said Tuesday that he won't give voters a look at his tax returns, calling the matter a distraction from real issues.

Jason Plummer, vice president of his family's chain of lumber yards and home-service stores, said any potential conflict of interest between his business and government duties has been disclosed in a statement required of all candidates. The 27-year-old political newcomer also said his campaign is releasing the name of every political donor.

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"The issue of releasing individual tax returns is often used to serve as a political distraction by those who cannot answer the real issues that voters care about," Plummer said in a statement.

His running mate, Bill Brady, briefly allowed public access to his returns, while Democratic candidates Gov. Pat Quinn and Sheila Simon have provided their returns to The Associated Press.

But Plummer and Brady have rebuffed requests to see Plummer's returns. Their aides have said Plummer was out of the country with the Navy Reserves, that Brady and Plummer needed to discuss the issue and campaign officials were looking into it.

Brady's campaign did not return messages Tuesday seeking reaction to Plummer's decision.

John Hoffman, a spokesman for the Brady-Plummer campaign, said Plummer has filed his taxes and did not seek an extension. He would not say how much Plummer paid the government.

Brady, a Bloomington businessman, initially said he wouldn't release his returns. He eventually changed course, and allowed reporters to look at six years of tax documents for a total of three hours. They showed that Brady didn't owe any federal taxes for the past two years, which Quinn is using against Brady.

Quinn spokeswoman Mica Matsoff said Tuesday that voters deserve to know why Plummer won't release the returns.

"What is he hiding?" Matsoff said.

Plummer, who is making his first run for public office, is a vice president with his family's R.P. Lumber. His family and their businesses provided much of the money for his primary campaign -- at least $985,000 in loans and donations. Plummer also lent the campaign $350,000 of his own money, records show.

Many voters have come to expect full financial disclosure from political candidates, especially in the first election after Gov. Rod Blagojevich's impeachment, said Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

"I think it's unfortunate, because Mr. Plummer isn't yet a widely known candidate," Canary said. "In this election cycle in particular, voters have good reason to really want to scrutinize the candidates, both where they stand on the issues and how they conduct themselves personally."

Quinn and Simon, a law professor at Southern Illinois University, have released their most recent tax returns.

"They understand that there are no degrees of transparency," Matsoff, the campaign spokesman, said. "After the last two scandal-plagued administrations, voters and taxpayers want to be sure of the openness and honesty of their public officials."

Simon and her husband, who also teaches at Southern Illinois, had a total income of $153,434. They paid $22,894 in federal taxes and donated $3,526 to charity.

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