Lazio Releases Tax Returns

Rick Lazion in Melville NY speaking (june 12)
After months of prodding by journalists and his Democratic opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio on Monday gave reporters access to his tax returns from the past decade.

The congressman and his wife, Patricia, who works part-time as a nurse, made about $150,000 in 1999. At first glance, the federal and state tax returns dating back to 1990 didn't appear to contain anything unusual.

The release came less than a week after the Securities and Exchange Commission ended its investigation into Lazio's securities trades, clearing him of any wrongdoing.

The SEC revealed no details of its investigation, but the probe followed a report in The New York Times in June that said Lazio made a 600 percent profit in a matter of weeks by investing in securities of brokerage Quick & Reilly, a company controlled by some of his biggest campaign contributors.

Lazio campaign spokesman Dan McLagan said the campaign had been preparing to release the documents and that the timing was not related to the SEC investigation nor the demands of the other side.

Lazio, who entered the Senate race against Hillary Rodham Clinton in May after Mayor Rudolph Giuliani backed out as the Republican candidate, had promised since the early days of his campaign to release his tax returns by the end of the summer.

In recent weeks, he was dogged in appearances around the state by Democratic Party operatives – including various people in Uncle Sam suits dubbed "Tax Man" – who asked the candidate to release the tax information.

While reporters were not able to take copies of the Lazios' federal and state tax returns, they were permitted to review them and were invited to pore over the figures for as long as necessary.

Lazio was not at campaign headquarters in Manhattan when the tax forms were provided.

The financial reports showed the Lazios with income from his salary as a congressman, her work as a nurse and modest returns on investments. The couple also reported income from the rental of a vacation home on Fire Island.

In 1999, their income was $152,000, for which they paid $22,341 in taxes. The couple made $2,422 in charitable donations, although the recipients were not itemized. In 10 years of marriage, the most the Lazios made in any year was $159,258, in 1997.

Peter Kauffmann, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said Lazio still hasn't explained why it took three months to release his tax returns.

"It's time for Mr. Lazio to stop playing games and start playing straight," Kauffmann said.

As the wife of President Clinton, the first lady's tax returns are made public each year.

Her campaign also has released documents showing the Clintons paid more than $17,000 in property taxes -- $8,727 in December and $8,642 in April -- for the house they bought in 1999 in suburban Chappaqua, New York.