Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland released a batch of federal income tax forms yesterday. His Republican opponent, Ken Blackwell, declined to join him, bucking a GOP tradition that dates back at least 35 years.
Mr. Strickland, a southeast Ohio congressman, and his wife, Frances, grossed about $150,000 annually from 2000 through 2005, mostly from his congressional salary. They gave away about $9,000 each year, mostly by sending pay raises and health benefits back to the federal government, but also through small donations to churches, local charities, and national groups including the Red Cross, Planned Parenthood, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Their tax forms list a Columbus address, outside Mr. Strickland's congressional district, from 2003 forward. A spokesman said Mr. Strickland owns a house in Columbus and rents a residence in Lisbon, where he is registered to vote.
Governors who have released their filings include Republicans Bob Taft, George Voinovich, and James Rhodes, who released his 1969 return in April, 1970.
Mr. Blackwell is secretary of state. His campaign has denied reporters' tax requests for more than a week, and Democrats have criticized him for it.
"It's only fair for voters to raise the question as to why he is refusing to share his tax returns," said Keith Dailey, Mr. Strickland's spokesman.
Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo said there was "no particular reason" for Mr. Blackwell's decision, "other than it's not required." He added that Ohio's financial disclosure form for officeholders gave sufficient information about Mr. Blackwell's finances.
The state forms disclose officials' income sources, including investments. Mr. Blackwell stirred controversy this spring when his revealed he once owned stock in Diebold Inc., a vendor of Ohio voting machines. Mr. Blackwell said his investment manager had been instructed not to buy the stock, and that he sold it upon discovery in his portfolio.
The state forms do not disclose income levels or charitable donations, including the Stricklands' gifts of $800 to the Red Cross, $50 to the ACLU, and $100 to Planned Parenthood, which Mr. LoParo called evidence that Mr. Strickland is "a social liberal in every sense."
Asked if Mr. Blackwell would disclose his donations, Mr. LoParo said, "I'd have to ask."
Mr. Blackwell will at least bank some very public political donations this month.
Today, he'll join President Bush for a private fund-raiser near Cleveland that Republicans predict could raise more than $1 million.
Later this month, Mr. Blackwell will be a featured guest, along with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, at a Republican Governors Association luncheon in Columbus. The host: Mr. Taft, the term-limited incumbent whose ethics Mr. Blackwell ripped in television ads earlier this year.
The RGA spends money on outside advertising campaigns in races across the nation. Its executive director, Phil Musser, said the group would "look forward to working with [Mr. Blackwell] and supporting him this year" in Ohio.
Mr. Dailey called the RGA fund-raiser a "very clear example of Ken Blackwell's hypocrisy. He denigrated Bob Taft in his quest to win the Republican primary," he said. "Now he's turning to his old pal for help fund-raising."
Mr. LoParo brushed the criticism aside. "Bob Taft is the governor of Ohio," he said. "He's a past president of the Republican Governors Association. We would expect Bob Taft to be involved with this event."
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