- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2003

President Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, yesterday paid his District property taxes four months late.

According to city records, the delinquent bill reached $4,518 — including $721.51 in penalties and interest — when Mr. Rove learned of it from press inquiries yesterday.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Mr. Rove’s mortgage company was handling the tax bill and overlooked the delinquency.

“Mr. Rove paid his property taxes into escrow through his mortgage company,” she said. “As soon as he became aware, he worked with the mortgage company to make sure the situation was resolved.”

According to the city, the tax department mailed the original bill on Mr. Rove’s Northwest home, assessed at $934,700, in February to Mr. Rove and his mortgage company, Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo issued a press release last night taking responsibility for the error and apologized “for any inconvenience and embarrassment this situation may have caused Mr. Rove and his family.” The company also said it would pay the penalties and interest.

The revelation comes two days after The Washington Times reported that Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat and White House hopeful, had failed to pay property taxes on his $3.8 million Georgetown mansion. Mr. Edwards’ presidential campaign said he paid the $11,092.46 bill Thursday, though city records still don’t reflect the payment.

A flurry of news reports followed, exploring the tax-paying habits of several Democratic presidential candidates. Republicans ridiculed Mr. Edwards for failing to pay his tax bill after he repeatedly called for a partial repeal of Mr. Bush’s tax cuts.

Yesterday, Democrats jumped at the opportunity to return fire for Mr. Rove’s delinquency.

“First Karl Rove and his crowd want to cut taxes for the wealthy,” said Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Now, it looks like he wants to take it a step further and simply not pay his taxes at all.”

Greg Speed, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said, “Rove and his rich friends have gotten huge tax breaks under this administration, but I guess that wasn’t enough for them.”

Mr. Rove and Mr. Edwards apparently aren’t alone in their tax worries.

The Boston Globe yesterday reported that due to a bank’s error, taxes went unpaid on a vacation home belonging to Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and presidential hopeful.

Mellon Financial Corporation, which handles tax payments on the house, issued a statement assuming responsibility and paid the $10,326.79 bill.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that former Gov. Howard Dean, the Vermont Democrat also running for president, missed deadlines by a matter of weeks on two bills, one totaling $52 and another totaling $61.

Two local newspapers in North Carolina reported that, in addition to his late D.C. bill, Mr. Edwards paid two late bills and interest on a house he owns on Figure Eight Island, an exclusive island off of Wrightsville Beach where the Edwardses own a beach house.

Trying to explain Mr. Edwards’ D.C. tax delinquency, a spokesman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams, D.C. Democrat, told the Charlotte Observer that Mr. Edwards’ bill may have been sent to the wrong address in February.

However, a copy of Mr. Edwards’ tax bill obtained by The Washington Times and the senator’s tax information on file with the city’s Office of Tax and Revenue include the correct address of the house where Mr. Edwards and his family currently live in the District while their Georgetown mansion is under renovation.

Mr. Edwards’ original bill, before interest and penalties, was $9,562.46. It was based on an assessment of $1.9 million, much lower than the $3.8 million the Edwardses paid last year for the eight-bedroom, 6,672-square-foot home.

The city’s chief assessor, Thomas W. Branham, said yesterday that’s because the sale of Mr. Edwards’ house wasn’t finalized until just a few days before the city determined its assessments of homes for the current tax year so the sale price was not taken into consideration.

“Sometime in the very near future we would expect the valuation to be somewhere more in line with” the purchase price, Mr. Branham said.

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