Stringer Surrogates Slam Spitzer for Not Releasing Tax Returns

Eliot Spitzer. (Photo: Getty)

Eliot Spitzer. (Photo: Getty)

In a sign of increasing aggression from his campaign, two supporters of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer trashed his rival in the comptroller’s race, ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, both for self-funding his bid and failing to release his tax returns.

“It’s really shocking that someone who made their reputation as a fighter for transparency and ethics in government now seems to believe he can be cynical about the same goals and get away with it,” said Councilman Brad Lander. “New Yorkers have to wonder, what is Mr. Spitzer hiding?”

Speaking on a conference call organized by the Stringer campaign, Mr. Lander connected the issue of the day to one that dogged Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last year.

“Is he investing in Bain Capital?” Mr. Lander asked. “Is their an offshore bank account in the Caymans? Is he buying distressed real estate in the south Bronx?”

Mr. Lander and the second surrogate, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, again and again emphasized Mr. Spitzer’s past support of publicly-funded campaigns, which contrasts with a comptroller campaign largely funded by his family’s real estate fortune.

This and the tax return attack line are the first charges the Stringer camp has launched against Mr. Spitzer, once felled by an infamous prostitution scandal, and they truly seem to be embracing it. Right before today’s call, his campaign unveiled an ad pointing out how Mr. Spitzer once demanded that Mr. Romney disclose his full tax returns. During the call, the focus was on Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Stringer himself was rarely mentioned.

“We’re pointing out the differences in the Eliot Spitzer over the last couple of years that has spoken on news programs and certainly while he was governor or before, he all of a sudden changes his opinions on things … the fact that he hasn’t released his tax returns is quite telling,” Mr. Rivera insisted.

Mr. Stringer released five years of tax returns yesterday while Mr. Spitzer disclosed his income over the past two years–he made roughly $8 million–but not the full breadth of his income and investments, which are believed to be sizable.

Mr. Spitzer’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment but defended their position yesterday and claimed the need to protect Mr. Spitzer’s financial privacy.

“Eliot has released his aggregate gross income and the amounts he paid in Federal, State and City taxes,” spokeswoman Lisa Linden said in a statement. “He will not be releasing the actual tax returns, as they contain income information about partnerships and other entities that is private … Additional information will be provided in the required campaign filings.”

Mr. Lander and Mr. Rivera also seized on Mr. Spitzer’s recent claim that by self-funding his campaign, he would not be drawing from “special interests” like Mr. Stringer, who has the backing of the Democratic establishment, labor unions and real estate groups.

“I am especially angry that he is dressing up that hypocrisy as a public interest, claiming that funding a campaign with private wealth is somehow independent and casting aspersions of people who utilize New York City’s strong program with its emphasis on small donor democracy–that is a direct attack on public campaign finance,” Mr. Lander said. “It’s the same argument that right-wing  interests use, attacking public matching programs.”

He added, “It’s essentially an argument for plutocracy over democracy.”

Stringer Surrogates Slam Spitzer for Not Releasing Tax Returns