What do top candidates’ tax returns say about their wealth

Finance


Although the top candidates for mayor are much wealthier than the average Philadelphia citizen, there is a considerable range in the candidate’s personal wealth arena.

While it is impossible to determine the net worth of civil servants based solely on publicly available documents, the richest is Alain Domb, a former Alderman who owns a vast real estate portfolio of over 400 properties in the city. It’s also clear that Sherrel Parker, the only frontrunner who doesn’t live in Center City, isn’t the richest.

But more than that, it’s difficult to ascertain how wealthy the mayoral candidate is and where he keeps his assets. Candidates and elected officials are required to file statements of financial interest, but these reports have significant loopholes, such as not including the spouse’s income.

» Read more: The Inquirer’s Guide to the 2023 Democratic Primary

To better understand the candidates’ personal finances, The Inquirer asked the top five Democratic candidates in the May 16 primary to submit three years of tax returns. The newspaper promised not to publish the full report and not to disclose confidential information.

Two wealthy businessmen who participated in the race, Donbu and grocer Jeff Brown, refused to submit their tax returns.

Parker and former mayor Rebecca Linhart fully complied with the request and filed tax returns for 2019-2021.

Former City Councilman Helen Jim omitted the schedule and worksheets that were attached to her IRS filing and submitted only the top sheet of her tax return for the year. Her campaign refused to provide the full amount after a follow-up request.

Patrick Christmas, policy director of the Good Government Group’s Committee of 70, said candidates for major government offices, such as mayors of large cities, could have conflicts of interest if elected. He said we need to provide as much transparency as possible about personal finances to ensure the public is aware.

For example, releasing tax returns could reveal “the kinds of tax regimes that would benefit certain candidates,” Christmas said.

Another benefit, he says, “is that the tax returns show how much the candidate has in common with the people they want to represent.”

With a poverty rate of 23%, Philadelphia is the poorest of the ten largest cities in the United States. According to Census data, the median household income is about $52,000.

Here’s what we know about the top candidates’ personal finances.

Rebecca Linhart



Mayoral candidate Rebecca Reinhart speaks to a group of volunteers campaigning for her around Fishtown in April..read moreHeather Khalifa / Staff Photographer

Linhart and her husband, wine distributor David McDuff, are earning between $235,000 and $275,000 annually from 2019 to 2021.

About $147,000 came from the salaries of Linhart’s city administrators and several thousand dollars a year from interest and dividends, suggesting they are making some financial investments. Not a huge amount.

“The mayor of Philadelphia must annually disclose the sources of income for himself and his spouse,” Linhart said in a statement. “Voters deserve the same transparency that any candidate running for mayor has. , and we plan to publish them as well.”

» Read more: Rebecca Rhynhart is committed to making government work. Does Philadelphia Want Technocrats in Times of Crisis?

Linhart left a career in finance to join Mayor Michael A. Nutter’s administration, serving as the city’s treasurer and budget director. She worked in the municipal bond market at Fitch Ratings and Bear Stearns, but she resigned from Bear Stearns shortly before it collapsed in the 2008 financial crisis.

Reinhart said he left Wall Street to help the government after seeing the city dabble in big banks.

Sherrel Parker



Mayoral Candidate Sherrel Parker greets voters after the Faith and Security Mayoral Candidate Forum held at First District Square in West Philadelphia in April..read moreTom Gralish / Staff Photographer

Parker was a single mother and for some years earned barely more than her council salary. In 2020 she earned $132,000 and in 2021 her income was $144,000.

In 2019, former state legislator Parker, who lives in East Mount Airy, received an early payment of $94,000 from the state pension. That year she earned $38,000 as a board member of her Independence Blue Cross.

Given her relatively frugal lifestyle among candidates, Parker said, “I’m really the only working-class candidate whose life experience is closest to that of most Philadelphians.” is clear.”

“But it bothers me to see people with this much wealth refuse to be open and transparent, or be completely open and transparent with their voters. .

Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter requires elected officials to resign to run for another office, and Parker resigned from the city council to begin the mayoral race in September. , is often criticized for making it more difficult for less wealthy candidates to run for higher public office.

» Read more: Cherelle Parker is proud of her West Oak Lane roots. As mayor, can she save Philadelphia’s “middle district”?

Shortly after resigning, Parker registered with the state as a lobbyist for the Rooney Novak Eisenour Group, a company associated with the administration of former Governor Tom Wolfe.

Parker’s lobbyist registry lists her clients as Moores College of Art and Design and Longwood Gardens. Her registration also originally included her Enbridge Inc., an oil and gas pipeline company, but that client was dropped after Parker said the campaign was a clerical error. rice field.

Parker spokesperson Allen Pratt said, “Sherrell is no superwoman. She’s a real working mother who has to pay her mortgage, utilities and feed her 10-year-old son.” Given my master’s degree in policy and my unparalleled understanding of the legislative process, I am a very well-qualified consulting position.”

Jeff Brown



Democratic candidate for Mayor Jeff Brown, grocery store owner, in January at the Mayors Forum hosted by DiverseForce and the African American Chamber of Commerce..read moreTom Gralish / Staff Photographer

Voters are skeptical about Brown’s personal finances because he didn’t file a tax return and, as a first-time candidate, didn’t have to comply with government disclosure requirements for years like the opposition did. Little do I know.

But despite that uncertainty, it’s clear that being a fourth-generation grocery store, ShopRite’s longtime owners are extremely wealthy.

The statement of financial interest Brown submitted to participate in the vote included income from 12 financial institutions and corporations, plus income from the parent company of his ShopRite stores and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, of which he is a director. The disclosure form does not include the amount he made.

» Read more: Jeff Brown could become Philadelphia’s first outsider mayor in a century. Can a grocery store run a town?

“The campaign will not release Jeff’s tax returns,” campaign spokesperson Kyle Anderson said. “The required financial disclosure form provides more than adequate information about the candidate’s finances.”

When Brown moved to Philadelphia from New Jersey in 2014, he made headlines when he purchased the gorgeous Rittenhouse Brownstone for $4.3 million and put it up for sale.

The house has 5 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, 9 fireplaces, 3 terraces, lift, built-in sauna, gym, wine cellar and 2 car garage. It is currently valued at $5.6 million, according to city property records, making it his second most valuable tenement in Philadelphia. (Coincidentally, the most valuable one is owned by real estate developer Bert He Bratstein, one of his biggest supporters of Brown.)

Brown partially inherited a 10-year property tax exemption from the previous owner. This is now valued at almost $2.5 million, and Brown’s property taxes have been reduced by more than 40% to his nearly $44,000 a year.

Brown has been critical of the controversial new-build and renovation tax cuts and recently attacked rivals trying to expand it, saying, “We’re trying to get rid of it.”

Brown donated at least $1 million to his campaign.

herenzim



Mayoral candidate Helen Jim speaks during the Democratic primary at WPVI-TV Studios in April..read moreAPs

Jim and her husband, lawyer Brett Flaherty, made between $364,000 and $451,000 in the three years in which her campaign provided partial tax returns. They received a small amount of investment income during that period.

At the time, Flaherty was working for Conshohocken-based pharmaceutical company AmerisourceBergen, which had been criticized for contributing to the opioid crisis. His role at the company recently became a flashpoint, with TV ads attacking Jim in 2019 when he voted against a council bill that would increase oversight of drug salespeople.

» Read more: Helen Jim wants to end the battle she started 30 years ago. Will she become an activist and mayor of Philadelphia?

Jim consulted the Ethics Committee on how to handle a potential conflict of interest, and the committee’s general counsel told her she did not have to decline the vote.

Jim’s campaign manager, Brendan McPhillips, said the accusations that she had acted unethically were “clearly false” and her critics said that “Helen is a public education and a petty and greedy special interest.” I’m trying to crush Helen because I know I’m standing up for the general public.”

Flaherty left AmerisourceBergen in February and now works for a medical device company in the Lehigh Valley.

Before running for council, Jim worked briefly as a journalist and teacher, and was also a community activist.

Alain Domb



January City Councilman Allan Domb’s Democratic Candidate for Mayor at a Mayor’s Forum hosted by DiverseForce and the African American Chamber of Commerce..read moreTom Gralish / Staff Photographer

Since Dongbu first ran for city council in 2015, his vast personal wealth has been a point of contention at city hall. He poured at least his $7 million into the mayoral race to transform the election and allow television ads to air long before all but one of his mayors. his rival.

A self-proclaimed “condominium king,” Domb has a ragtag rich story, having grown up in working-class New Jersey and becoming one of the most successful real estate brokers in the country. He specialized in the Center City condominium market and became a major property owner.

He owns more than 400 properties in the city, according to last year’s Inquirer survey, and his portfolio is valued at more than $400 million, according to city property records. Those valuations likely underestimate his holdings and do not take into account the debt he may have. have the right

» Read more: Allan Domb built a real estate empire from scratch. Can one of the city’s biggest landlords be mayor?

“Allan Domb has repeatedly disclosed everything he owns: every apartment, every business, every parking lot,” said Jared Leopold, spokesman for Domb’s campaign. . “Dongbu also publishes all sources of income and how much money they receive from each.”

City officials such as code inspectors and property assessors are constantly interacting with Domb assets. To allay concerns about how he will navigate potential conflicts of interest as mayor, Dom announced his ethics plan in February, placing his financial assets in a blind trust and leaving his assets to his son. and other investor-owned entities.

The entity will be subject to significant restrictions, including a ban on asking for zoning differences or applying for new building permits to the city while the mayor of Dombu is mayor.

“Our residents, workers, and business owners must have confidence that decisions are being made for the right reasons,” Domb said at the time. We employ a conflict of interest policy that goes well beyond what the law requires.”

Staff writers Ryan Briggs and Anna Orso contributed to this article.



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