- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2008

U.S. Senate candidate and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner belonged to partnerships that were delinquent in paying property taxes at least 17 times during the 1990s, amassing more than $3,000 in late fees.

Alexandria tax records show late payments on three properties partially owned by Mr. Warner - a Democrat and self-made multimillionaire vying to replace retiring Republican Sen. John W. Warner, who is not related to him - were made repeatedly between 1992 and 1998.

The ownerswere penalized $3,018 in late fees and $646 in interest as a result of the late payments on properties at 1225 King St., 1229 King St. and 1010 Cameron St. - all in or just off the city’s downtown corridor.

Mr. Warner, governor from 2002 to 2006, officially began his Senate campaign earlier this month. The 53-year-old is widely credited with solving the state’s budget crisis during his governorship, but has been criticized for raising taxes to do so.

Warner spokesman Kevin Hall declined yesterday to comment on the delinquent-tax issue, referring questions to Mr. Warner’s former partner, Murray Bonitt.

Mr. Bonitt, owner of Bonitt Builders Inc. in Alexandria, said the late payments occurred when he owned the properties in partnership with Mr. Warner.

He said that the two men owned the Cameron Street property and that roughly five partners owned the two on King Street. Mr. Bonitt said Mr. Warner was a silent partner who had nothing to do with the late payments and never had sole ownership of the properties.

City of Alexandria records list Mr. Warner as the sole owner of the King Street properties when six late payments were made, but Mr. Bonitt said he thinks that is the result of a clerical error.

“He was completely silent,” Mr. Bonitt said. “We were responsible for doing all the administrative paperwork and, on occasion, the bookkeeper I had at the time would fail to get the tax checks in on time.”

Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, said the late payments likely will have a negligible effect on Mr. Warner’s Senate campaign.

“If this were a pattern, if it involved multiple properties, and he were a first partner directly responsible, I could then imagine an opponent making some political gain over this,” he said. “On the other hand, I don’t think anybody is going to suggest the man was trying to get away with not paying his obligations.”

A spokeswoman for James S. Gilmore III, Mr. Warner’s leading Republican rival, said the late payments showed a double standard held by Mr. Warner.

“It seems kind of hypocritical for a politician who’s worth over $200 million and who insists on raising taxes on the working people of Virginia to take his own time paying taxes,” said Ana M. Gamonal.

Mr. Warner accrued his fortune as a telecommunications executive in the 1990s. He has raised nearly $8 million for his Senate bid, compared with roughly $1 million raised by Mr. Gilmore, also a former Virginia governor.

A personal financial-disclosure report filed with the secretary of the U.S. Senate this year shows Mr. Warner’s worth to be at least $88 million and as much as $390 million. His campaign said his net worth is roughly $200 million.

In 2004, Mr. Warner won approval from the Republican-controlled General Assembly of a $1.38 billion tax-reform package that increased the sales, cigarette and real estate taxes and cut the sales tax on food and income taxes for the poorest Virginians.

The package allowed the state to maintain its AAA bond rating. Despite the tax increase, Mr. Warner left office with a nearly 80 percent job-approval rating.

Mr. Warner is not the first political figure linked to late property-tax payments. The Washington Times reported in 2003 that Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat and presidential hopeful at the time, owed more than $11,000 in property-tax payments on his $3.8 million Georgetown home.

Reporters then explored the taxpaying habits of other presidential candidates, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Days later, President Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, paid the District $4,518 - including $721.51 in penalties and interest - on a tax bill that was four months overdue.

Alexandria real estate taxes are billed and payable in two installments, with one payment due by June 15 and the other by Nov. 15 each year. The late payments associated with Mr. Warner concerned these properties:

c 1225 King St: A commercial property assessed at $1.7 million that now houses a clothing boutique called An American in Paris, as well as offices for a nonprofit and private real estate investment firm.

City records show that late payments were made five times while the property was listed at least partially in Mr. Warner’s name - once in 1992 and twice in 1993 with Mr. Warner listed as the sole owner, and once in 1997 and once in 1998 with Mr. Warner, Mr. Bonitt and others on the listing. The property was assessed $1,328.82 in late fees and $89.83 in interest.

The building is now owned by 1225 King Street Associates LLC, a company listed by Mr. Warner on his Senate disclosure report as providing between $15,000 and $50,000 in income from rent and interest.

c 1229 King St.: A commercial property assessed at nearly $6 million that is home to the offices of Goal Financial LLC, a student-lending company and the legal organization American Inns of Court. The property also legally includes the address 1227 King St.

City records show that late payments were made on the property five times while it was at least partially listed in Mr. Warner’s name - once in 1992 and twice in 1993 with Mr. Warner listed as the sole owner, and once in 1997 and once in 1998 with Mr. Warner, Mr. Bonitt and others on the listing.

The payments resulted in $406.27 in late fees and $33.54 in interest charges. The building is now owned by 1225 King Street Associates LLC.

c 1010 Cameron St.: A property assessed at roughly $1 million that houses legal offices and Casamo and Associates, a company that provides court reporting and video-deposition services.

City records show late payments were made on the property seven times while its owner was listed as Bonitt Builders Inc. & M.R. Warner/Murray Bonnitt - twice in 1992, twice in 1993, once in 1994 and twice in 1998.

The payments were assessed $1,283.66 in late fees and $522.83 in interest charges. The building’s current owner is listed as Casamo LLC.

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