(Updated 9:00 p.m.) Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon was quick to distance herself from Mitt Romney’s remarks regarding the 47 percent of Americans who pay no taxes, while her opponent accuses her of making similar remarks last September when she launched her 2012 campaign.
In response to WTNH Reporter Mark Davis’ question about whether the wealthy should pay more in taxes, McMahon replied: “I’d like to see everyone pay their fair share. Forty-seven percent of the people today don’t pay any taxes, so let’s have a fair tax code where everybody pays their taxes. “
But McMahon’s remarks don’t include the value judgments about the 47 percent that Romney includes in his remarks at a closed-door fundraiser in Florida.
That video uploaded by Mother Jones shows Romney telling wealthy donors that there are “47 percent of the American people who will vote for the president no matter what.” Those 47 percent, Romney said, pay no income taxes and are dependent upon government. He described them as “victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”
The remarks prompted McMahon’s campaign to put out a statement distancing herself from Romney’s comments.
“I disagree with Governor Romney’s insinuation that 47 percent of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care,” McMahon said on her Facebook page around 10:30 a.m. “I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government are not in that situation because they want to be.”
McMahon used Romney’s statements as a way to remind Connecticut voters that she, too, has struggled.
“I am sympathetic to the struggles that millions of Americans are going through because I’ve been there,“ McMahon said. “As a young couple, Vince and I lost our home and our car. With two small children it was not an easy time for my family.”
Murphy’s campaign described the statement as “desperate.”
“No amount of campaign spin can change the fact that Linda McMahon supports Romney’s right-wing Republican agenda to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires like her while dismantling Medicare and devastating the middle class here in Connecticut,” Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the Murphy campaign, said.
The Murphy campaign said McMahon’s comments last year when she launched her campaign showed “disdain for the middle class,” but Todd Abrajano, McMahon’s spokesman, said that’s absolutely not true.
“Obviously, if Chris Murphy had been paying attention, Linda McMahon was clear today in her disapproval of Mitt Romney’s comments,” he said.
He said there’s a big difference between stating “a fact that 47 percent paid no income tax and commenting on why that may be the case.”
But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t support Romney’s candidacy.
Murphy’s campaign argues that McMahon may be distancing herself from Romney in her statements, but she and her husband Vince recently gave about $150,000 to Romney’s “Restore Our Future” PAC.
“No, Linda will not be asking for the money back,” Abrajano said.
McMahon is a two-time Republican U.S. Senate nominee, but her campaign often doesn’t go out of its way to promote her party affiliation in advertisements and mailers.
UConn Political Science Prof. Vincent Moscardelli said last week that as a Republican running in a liberal-leaning state, McMahon this year has tried to make the race about two individuals rather than two political parties.
But Murphy’s campaign wants Connecticut voters to think of McMahon as a Romney surrogate.
“The fact is the leader of her party was caught speaking honestly about the real McMahon-Romney agenda that would give Linda an additional $7 million tax break,“ Zupnick said. “Just like Romney, McMahon has a long disturbing history of laying off 10 percent of her workforce while taking $10 million in taxpayer money, as well as a plan to give millionaires like her a massive tax cut at the expense of middle class families.”
McMahon’s economic plan calls for a tax cut for the middle class and doesn’t change the earned income tax for wealthier residents, but it assumes the Bush tax cuts will remain in place.
If the Bush-era tax cuts are permitted to expire, the tax rate on capital gains and dividends would more than double, reverting to a rate of 39.6 percent. Using the McMahons’ 2010 tax filings, this would cost her an extra $7 million, according to the Murphy campaign. Most of the McMahons’ income in 2010 and 2011 came from capital gains and dividends.
Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan said about 11 to 14 percent of Connecticut residents don’t pay state income taxes for a variety of reasons.
“There are number of reasons why Connecticut residents do not pay state income taxes,” Sullivan said Monday. “Some fall below the minimum level of adjusted gross income that is taxed in Connecticut. Others are eligible for state income tax credits that equal or exceed their actual tax liability… All together, we estimate that only 11-14% of Connecticut residents do not pay Connecticut state income tax. They do, of course, pay other state taxes.”
However, Romney seems to lump those not paying federal income taxes with those receiving government help and as Politico points out, the two populations don’t necessarily overlap making Romney’s statements confusing.
According to a CBS Fact Check of the statement, nearly a third of those paying no federal income taxes are tax filers earning between $16,812 and $33,542, and 12.8 percent are those with incomes between $33,542 and $59,486.
But the same 2011 data shows that those with higher incomes also don’t pay federal income tax.
“The same data shows that in 2011, 78,000 tax filers with incomes between $211,000 and $533,000 paid no income taxes; 24,000 households with incomes of $533,000 to $2.2 million paid no income taxes, and 3,000 tax filers with incomes above $2.2 million paid no income taxes,” according to the Tax Policy Center.