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Braun needs a job, but tax returns won’t help land one at City Hall

Carol  Moseley Braun neither paid nor owed any federal income taxes for either 2008 or 2009 her returns show.

Carol Moseley Braun neither paid nor owed any federal income taxes for either 2008 or 2009, her returns show.

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Updated: July 22, 2011 8:51PM

Now that former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun has changed her mind and released her federal income tax returns Tuesday, we not only have a clearer understanding of why she wanted to put it off until after the mayoral election but also what may have motivated her to come out of political retirement in the first place.

Simply put, it looks like she needs a job, and these tax returns aren’t going to help her get one on the 5th Floor of City Hall.

Following in the footsteps of Bill Brady and Alexi Giannoulias, Braun neither paid nor owed any federal income taxes for either 2008 or 2009, her returns show.

Business losses wiped out what little income she reported during those years. Unlike either of those other two non-tax-paying candidates, though, there’s not much evidence to suggest Braun has any underlying wealth.

Braun’s tax returns, coupled with the fact she lives in a house encumbered with about $2 million in mortgages (which she has on the market for $1.9 million), would suggest an individual facing serious financial distress.

Braun, 63, posted the tax returns on her campaign website late Tuesday afternoon, one day after a mid-course correction (flip-flopping is such a loaded word) in which she initially told reporters she wouldn’t give up her returns “because I don’t want to.”

Then, after the spit hit the fan as to whether she had something to hide, she went on Fox TV that night to exclusively explain she had made a “misstatement” — as opposed to an actual mistake — and that she would no longer wait until after the election to make the information public.

Lots of questions, no answers

Braun released copies of only the front two pages of her tax returns with none of the accompanying schedules or attachments, and neither she nor anyone with knowledge of the materials was available to answer questions.

That made it pretty much impossible to figure out what’s really going on there, which I presume is why she didn’t provide that information, although an adviser to the campaign promised late Tuesday night that he would attempt to get answers to reporters’ questions in the next few days.

For 2008, Braun reported adjusted gross income of minus $225,908 despite wages of $55,000, business income of $17,757 and pension payments of $21,988. These were offset by losses totaling $324,316, leaving her with no taxable income.

The available documents did not disclose the source of the losses, but presumably they are related to the small organic beverage company Braun founded in 2005, Ambassador Organics, which she has acknowledged is struggling to survive the recession.

For 2009, Braun reported no wages, business income of $5,558 and pensions totaling $27,885. Losses of $17,505 left her with an adjusted gross income of $15,561 which again left her owing no taxes after her itemized deductions were applied.

Instead of substantive answers, Braun released a statement saying that her “tax returns are one measure of the fight I have waged to keep my business running” and taking a shot at two or her main opponents, Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico, for unlike her, trading “on their government relations for vast riches when they left office.”

That’s a fair point for her to make, except there is some question in my mind about how much influence on which she had to trade.

Shades of 1992

The whole two-day saga, beginning with Braun’s self-described “flippant” refusal to release the returns, was a real exercise in deja vu for those of us in the media who remember wrestling with her during her earlier political incarnation, and possibly for her, too.

During her 1992 Senate campaign, Braun became so piqued with reporters pestering her for an additional year’s tax return (on top of what she’d already released) that she famously explained her refusal by saying: “I feel like I’ve been raped by you guys already, okay, and I just figure this has gone on long enough. Quite frankly, for me to continue to lie back and let you guys do this is just asinine.”

Then during her re-election campaign of 1998, it was Braun on the offensive on the income tax front, demanding that her wealthy opponent Peter Fitzgerald release his complete income tax returns “in the spirit of full disclosure,” instead of just the front sheets as he had opted to do.

It should be interesting hearing her explain in the coming days why that was then and this is now.

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