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Blunt snagged by D.C. tax break that had ensnared Carnahans

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 6, 2009 - U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, a candidate for the Senate, blames the Washington, D.C., government for incorrectly giving a property tax break on his Georgetown home.

Missouri Democrats are jabbing Blunt over the issue, while Republicans note that the tax break previously had caused a headache for the mother of his Democratic rival, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

The Kansas City Star has raised a ruckus with its disclosure this week that Blunt and his wife, Abigail, received a tax break last year of roughly $575 on their D.C. home, because the city had given them a "homestead exemption'' since it was deemed their primary residence.

Such a break shouldn't have been allowed if the Blunts claim a Missouri residence as their primary home. They say they do.

The Blunts provided evidence late Monday that they were unaware that the D.C. government had apparently failed to act on a 2004 request by Abigail Blunt that no homestead exemption be given. The evidence includes a letter from a D.C. councilman, a Democrat, backing up the Blunts' account.

Even so, the Missouri Democratic Party is pouncing:

“Today’s news report in the Kansas City Star showing that Congressman Blunt is receiving undeserved tax breaks is troubling, to say the least,'' said state Democratic Party chairman Craig Hosmer (who, like Blunt, hails from southwest Missouri.)

"If he believes that he’s based in Washington, he owes the people of Missouri two explanations: why he permanently moved to Washington, and why he’s getting tax breaks that he doesn’t qualify for.  Our elected officials should be above reproach, and no matter who he tries to shift the blame to, he’s ultimately responsible for his own taxes. If he’s going to run for the U.S. Senate, we expect him to come clean on this as soon as possible.” 

Blunt's camp jabbed back by recalling a Star report in 2005 that former Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., also had wrongly obtained the exemption. (So had Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., and former Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo. Like Blunt, Bond said at the time that he was unaware the D.C. government had given him the tax break. Bond repayed the money, as did Carnahan.)

Blunt spokesman Rich Chrismer asserted late Monday that, "Unlike Roy Blunt, Robin Carnahan's family specifically applied for this exemption even though they did not qualify for it."

He was referring to a 2005 comment by Tom Carnahan, Jean Carnahan's son (and Robin Carnahan's brother) that she had apparently unwittingly signed a paper seeking the exemption during the closing on her Washington condominium.

The question now: Will this back and forth over the D.C. tax break show up in campaign ads next year? If so, who will fire first?

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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