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July 23, 2008
Residency issues/tax issues dog Wexler (extensively updated)
One of Barack Obama's strongest Congressional supporters may not even be a resident of the district he has represented in Congress. Robert Wexler, a Democrat, is being accused by his Republican opponent in an upcoming election of "playng a residency shell game", saying Wexler pretends to keep an address in Florida while "flagrantly" making his home in Maryland. As a Florida "resident", Wexler apparently pays no state income tax, while living with his family in Maryland, which does have a state income tax.
The dispute has entered the No Spin Zone on the O'Reilly Factor. The home district paper, The Palm Beach Post, reports. Atlas Shrugs has more.
Update -- Clarice Feldman adds:
It occurs to me that he's in some big trouble.
It will be interesting to see if he paid income taxes in Md. If he did, he clearly lied when he claimed Fla residence. If he said he was a resident of Fla where there is no income tax, Md should have a tax fraud claim against him.
What establishes whether or not you're considered aMaryland resident? The answer seems to depend on what the issue is. The Maryland MVA requires you to obtain a MD drivers license 60 days after you become a resident of the State. So, when are you a resident of the State? COMAR11.11.06.02 defines a resident as someone who: (1) Owns, leases, or rents a primary place of residence in Maryland for more than 6 months; (2) Has no other residence in any other state or country (see COMAR section for further details). For income tax purposes, the definition is similar. There, a resident is defined as: 1. is domiciled in this State on the last day of the taxable year; or 2. for more than 6 months of the taxable year, maintained a place of abode in this State, whether domiciled in this State or not (Tax General Article of the MD Code 10-101). Finally, as far as voter registration, the Maryland Law Encyclopedia quotes Roberts v. Larkin, 340 MD 147, 1995 as defining residence as "the place of a person's fixed domicile." "
President of the United States: a natural born citizen and resident of the U.S. for the last 14 years.
- United States Senator:a citizen of the U.S. for at least 9 years and resident of the state when elected.
- Representative in Congress: a citizen of the U.S. for at least 7 years and resident of the state when elected.
- Governor and Lieutenant Governor: an elector and resident of the state for the preceding 7 years.
- Cabinet Members: an elector and resident of the state for the preceding 7 years.
- Public Defender: an elector and resident of the circuit upon taking office.
- State Senator: an elector and resident of the district upon taking office and a resident of the state for at least 2 years prior to election.
- State Representative: an elector and resident of the district upon taking office and a resident of the state for at least 2 years prior to election.
- Justice of the Supreme Court: an elector and resident of the state upon taking office.
- Judge, District Court of Appeal: an elector and resident of the state upon taking office.
- County Offices: (See DEO 94-04).
I called Congressman Wexler's office (202) 225-3001 and spoke to a man named "Josh" , asking if the Congressman has issued a formal statement on the issue and whether he has or would make public his income tax returns so we could see if he paid Md taxes or claimed Fla residency. He transferred me to the Congressman's voice mail where I repeated the questions.
The voice mail message says the Congressman regularly listens to his voice mail.
I think the House Ethics Committee ought to be opening a file on the Congressman to see if he has evaded applicable tax laws and violated Florida's residency requirements for running for office.
Update 4 PM EDT
Here it appears is the relevant Fla law dealing with election fraud:
"A person who commits or attempts to commit any fraud in connection with voting, votes a fraudulent ballot, or votes more than once in an election can be convicted of a felony of the third degree and fined up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 5 years."
Elections fraud can rob many Americans of their voice in government and greatly impact the results of elections across the nation. It is the active participation of citizens, like yourself, which aid in our mission to eliminate elections fraud. Elections fraud means any irregularities or fraud arising out of or in connection with voter registration or voting, or candidate petition or issue petition activities that may constitute a prescribed offense Chapter 104, Florida Statutes. "Elections fraud" does not include violations of Chapter 106, F.S. Should you observe or witness a potential case of election fraud, we ask that you complete the Complaint Form the form so it may be further investigated (see Rule 1S-2.025, Elections fraud Complaints).
The Division conducts preliminary investigations into any irregularities or fraud involving voter registration or voting, or candidate petition or issue petition activities, in conjunction with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. If there is probable cause that a violation occurred, the Division will report its findings to the statewide prosecutor or the state attorney for the judicial circuit in which the alleged violation occurred for prosecution, where warranted.
Therefore, in order for us to be able to conduct preliminary investigations, it is imperative that you provide us with the date, time, place and any specific circumstances that are witnessed. We need credible evidence (this does not mean suspicion). We also need a means of contacting you to obtain additional information. If you believe you have witnessed elections fraud, please contact our Elections Fraud Hotline at 1- 877-868-3737. I called an attorney at the General Counsel's office to see if anyone has filed a complaint and if there are any cases dealing with perjury on candidate petition forms.
They responded and said it was a federal matter, not a state one. That as to his present eligibility inquiry should be made to the Speaker of the House of Representatives or a challenge can be made iin federal district court in Florida.
As to whether he is liable for past election fraud, inquiry should be made to the Florida Attorney General.
Update: 7:01 EDT
Rosslyn Smith writes:
Domicile for tax purposes is less a bright line test than a weighing of factors related to the sum total of a person's total circumstances. The location and nature of one's employment is a major factor, but is not necessarily determinative. Other key factors are where one's spouse and minor children reside, ownership/leasing of residential property, where a person's motor vehicles are registered, what jurisdiction issued the driver's license, where one is registered to vote and subsequently casts a ballot, membership in churches, synagogues, professional and social organizations, as well a newspaper and magazine subscriptions and banking/brokerage relationships. Even the taxpayer's intent factors into the determination. For example, there are cases in which taxpayers accepting assignments of limited duration such as a two to three year posting with their long time employer's European office were found to have retained their domicile in the state they had moved away from. This was the case even when their spouse and children accompanied them overseas and they had sold their house. The reasoning was that the clear intent ways to return to that state at the end of the fixed assignment. On the other hand, if a person accepts a permanent position in a different state and then commutes back home on the weekend solely because that is a personal preference, the tax domicile is usually deemed to have shifted to the state of employment even though all the other contacts and relationships have not. When a taxpayer who splits time between two jurisdictions is not employed, the best advice is to make sure that the other factors clearly point to one location over the other. For example, if it is convenient to open an account at a local bank, only keep enough funds their to pay local expenses.
Congressmen have always presented an interesting case as the job itself entails the performance of duties both in Washington DC and in the congressional district one represents, while many Congressmen also rent or own housing in Virginia or Maryland for themselves and family members. Because both relationships and intent usually shift over time, it is likely that many long term Congressman may fall into a gray area when it comes to the question of domicile. I remember hearing that towards the end of his time in Congress Richard Gephardt was spending more time at his North Carolina beach house than he did back in Missouri. Note also how many Congressmen who retire either willingly or through losing reelection bids decide to remain in the DC area rather than return to their districts.
I suspect that because of the political implications, revenue authorities in Virginia and Maryland tend to defer to voters back home on the issue of whether or not a Congressman has abandoned his or her domicile in the state that sent them to Congress and taken up residence in theirs.
Update:11:35 PM EDT
Wexler admits he hasn't lived in Florida since 1997 but claims under his reading of Florida law he still is a resident of that state. |