Report to Readers: The case of Annie Kuster’s unpaid taxes

Last modified: 3/13/2013 4:08:46 PM
When I arrived at work Tuesday, the first message in my email was one accusing the Monitor of a partisan double standard. Why had we made such a big deal about Jennifer Horn’s unpaid federal taxes but not told our readers about Annie Kuster’s late property tax payments in Hopkinton and Jackson?

Jennifer Horn is the newly elected head of the New Hampshire Republican Party. Kuster is the newly elected Democratic congresswoman from the 2nd District. The story about Horn was published before her party met to pick a new leader. As of Tuesday morning, we had published no news about Kuster’s tax troubles.

Conspiracy? Well, only a conspiracy of ignorance, alas. We learned about the Kuster situation after WMUR reported it. Today – Wednesday – it is the lead story on our front page.

The story, written by Monitor reporter Ben Leubsdorf, makes clear that WMUR was the first to report on Kuster’s taxes, which led one website commenter to criticize the newspaper for getting beaten in our own backyard.

Indeed, this is the type of story that makes me want to go home and go back to sleep – but not precisely for the reason our critic suggests. Yes, we got beaten by WMUR, and that’s never good. But shame on us – and WMUR and the rest of the state press corps – for not doing such a basic records check before the November election. Heck, while we’re at it, shame on former congressman Charlie Bass and the Republican Party for not unearthing such baffling poor judgment on Kuster’s part before the election.

Would news of Kuster’s repeatedly late tax payments have made a difference in the campaign? From this week’s response from the GOP, you can only imagine how her opponents might have seized on this news at the time. (“This is disgusting,” said Nat Sillin, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, in a statement. “Millionaire Ann Kuster wants to raise taxes on Granite State families, but she doesn’t even pay her own. How can Kuster be trusted to make the rules if she won’t even follow them herself?”)

Would such a drumbeat have cost Kuster the race? Would she have offered an explanation that satisfied the voters? And, if the Republicans had spent the summer beating up on Kuster over taxes, would they have gone on to elect Horn as the public face of their party, given her own tax troubles?

In any case, this is certainly information many voters would have liked to have had before the November vote, rather than afterward. We will work hard not to let such a story get by us again.

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