- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2017

Top Democrats said Monday that the so-called “Paradise Papers,” a leaked cache of millions of documents exposing major world figures’ use of offshore tax havens, are damning enough to derail the GOP’s push for an overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

Several top Trump administration figures, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur J. Ross Jr., Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, appear in the data.

Mr. Ross in particular appears to have an ownership stake in a shipping company that does business with a Russian firm whose owners are connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Paradise Papers are a massive cache of documents from Appleby, a law firm that advises on how to offshore. The documents were obtained by a German newspaper and shared with an international consortium of investigative reporters, which released reporting on them this week.

Democrats said the revelations should sour the entire debate over the GOP’s plans to overhaul the existing tax code, saying the legislation doesn’t do enough to shut down offshoring.

“The revelations in the Paradise Papers are proof positive that the Republican tax plan favors the wealthy and betrays the middle class in this country, who are the ones left carrying the financial burden of massive corporate tax avoidance,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on tax matters in the Senate.

In the House, where the GOP tax bill hit the Ways and Means Committee on Monday, Democrats said the revelations pump the brakes on the push.

“These new reports from yesterday raise a number of questions about Trump allies,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Democrat.

Their attempt to delay was defeated on a party-line 24-16 vote.

Mentioned in the new documents are Mr. Cohn, who had holdings in Bermuda while an executive at Goldman Sachs, and Mr. Tillerson, who was part of a Bermuda-based joint venture while head of Exxon Mobil, according to the consortium’s reporting.

In the case of Mr. Ross, he has maintained an ownership stake in Navigator, a shipping firm, which does tens of millions of dollars in business with Silbur, a Russian firm whose owners include Mr. Putin’s son-in-law and a close friend of the Russian president who is subject to U.S. sanctions.

Silbur itself is not subject to sanctions.

Anti-Trump activist groups said Mr. Ross‘ holdings were still shady.

Common Cause, which advocates for stricter campaign finance and conflict-of-interest rules, said the Commerce Department’s inspector general should probe the secretary’s dealings, saying he should have disclosed them.

“These latest revelations are part of a disturbing pattern of Trump administration officials seeking to hide their links to Russian business interests and members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause.

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