Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat and 2004 presidential hopeful, is four months delinquent in paying the property taxes on his Georgetown mansion and owes the cash-strapped District more than $11,000, city records show.
Mr. Edwards is worth somewhere between $12 million and $30 million after a successful career as a personal injury lawyer, according to his financial disclosure forms. He bought the eight-bedroom, 6,672-square-foot home in the tony neighborhood for $3.8 million in September.
In February, the city sent Mr. Edwards a tax bill for $9,562.46, which he was supposed to have paid by March 31, according to tax records. As of 3:30 p.m. yesterday, Mr. Edwards owed $11,092.46 with interest and penalties, according to the city’s tax collection office.
Mr. Edwards’ office was not aware of the unpaid taxes but at 7 p.m. yesterday issued the following response by e-mail after The Washington Times faxed a copy of the bill:
The senator and his wife, Elizabeth, “had not received a bill. As soon as they received one, they paid it,” the statement says.
Mr. Edwards’ delinquency came during a year in which the city faced a $323 million budget shortfall. The District was forced to cut funding for public education and a wide array of city services.
The senator’s tax bill is among the city’s largest for private homeowners.
“That’s a lot of money,” said Virginia Daisley, a spokeswoman for the city tax collection office.
“There’s no reason for not paying your tax bill,” she said. “I guess if you’re in the hospital or something, but still you have to pay your taxes.”
On the presidential campaign trail, Mr. Edwards often rails against President Bush’s tax cuts as giveaways to wealthy people for whom tens of thousands of dollars is pocket change.
For example, in a June speech at Georgetown University, Mr. Edwards criticized “tax-free tax shelters for millionaires that are bigger than most Americans’ paychecks for an entire year.”
In the same speech, where he laid out his vision for revising the U.S. tax code, Mr. Edwards said, “In these times of national sacrifice, we should not be asking less of the most fortunate.”
Ron Faucheux, author of the book “Running for Office” and editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine, said: “You have to take care of those personal issues before you run for office, whether you’re running for local office or president of the United States.”
Mr. Edwards’ wealth and occupation mean that he has to be particularly attentive to such matters, Mr. Faucheux said.
“In the case of Edwards, it’s a particular problem. His position as a trial lawyer and the enormous amount of money he’s made and the fact that he lives in a multimillion-dollar home hurts his populist class warfare message,” Mr. Faucheux said. “Anything that calls attention to his wealth will not be helpful to him.”
This is not the first time the Edwardses have failed to pay tax bills on time.
In at least eight instances during the past decade, the Edwardses have been so late paying property taxes on their Raleigh home and various automobiles that bill collectors assessed them penalties, according to records kept by Wake County in North Carolina.
In 1995, for example, they were more than two months late paying their taxes on a 1989 Mitsubishi and a 1991 Acura. That same year, they were nearly a month late paying taxes on their Raleigh home.
Last year, they were late paying their taxes on a 1998 Volvo and a 1998 Buick.
That did not include the dozens of times the Edwardses paid months past the due dates on their Raleigh tax bills but were not assessed late penalties.
Regarding the outstanding bill in Washington, Mrs. Daisley said that even in cases where a tax bill is in dispute, the city requires owners to pay by March 31.
“You can protest the bill, but you must still pay your taxes on time, and we’ll reimburse you,” she said. “It’s the owner’s responsibility.”
If Mr. Edwards fails to pay his taxes, the city could sell his Georgetown mansion at auction in July 2004.