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New York politicians offer tax returns and pokes at Trump


 

Mayor Bill de Blasio made no money from stocks, but he generated a cool $106,000 in yearly rent from two Brooklyn properties. Eric T. Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, garnered $2,368 from a cameo on the television police drama “Blue Bloods.” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo lists $218,000 in income from his book that fewer and fewer people are buying. 

 Yes, the annual civic ritual of filing taxes, a moment of resentment and resignation for millions of Americans, proves that while politicians are just like us, they also sort of are not. 

 The differences were particularly present this year in the tinge of giddiness shown by some Democratic politicians as they publicly released their returns with an added itemization: a finger in the eye of President Donald Trump, who has refused to share his filings. 

 “For us, tax time is a moment of gratitude,” de Blasio wrote in a squib online explaining his patriotic feeling and assailing the president. (Adjusted gross income: $220,651.) “See, President Trump? It’s not that hard,” he later wrote on Twitter. 

 “I’ll never stop looking for new ways to try to increase transparency,” said Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has posted her returns back to 2007, in her own statement. (Earned income from her job: $169,073.) 

 The president “violates the public’s trust” by refusing to release his returns, said a spokeswoman for Schneiderman, who is investigating the Trump Foundation. Schneiderman’s income includes $95,551 from investments, his $151,228 yearly pay as the state’s highest law enforcement officer, and the small payment from his star turn, which he donated to charity. (Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also released his returns.) 

 Not everyone has been as forthcoming. Two of de Blasio’s potential Republican challengers declined to release their taxes this week, for different reasons. Paul J. Massey Jr., a millionaire former real estate sales executive, said through a spokeswoman that he had filed an extension; Bo Dietl, a pugnacious former police detective who has tangled with the Internal Revenue Service, “is NOT releasing his taxes today!” a spokesman said in an email, saying he would if he became the Republican nominee. 

 The value of making tax returns public is, among others, as a check on potential conflicts of interest that could arise between the investments and activities of politicians and the decisions that they make while in office. It is a rationale that the president has resisted, a position that protesters across the country have not been shy in pointing out. 

 But beyond the swirl of numbers, and political point-scoring, the returns released by New York Democrats also offer a look into their interests and, occasionally, their obsessions. 

 Schneiderman enjoys jazz, and so his return includes charitable donations to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens as well as Jazz at Lincoln Center. (Total giving to all charities: $11,045.) 

 De Blasio’s charitable donations include small contributions to 15 nonprofits that he has given to in past years, including social service organizations and WFUV, the Fordham University radio station. (Total donations: $2,088.) 

 The mayor’s donations are on the low end for someone with his income: While roughly a third of Americans give nothing at all, for those making more than $100,000, the average is a little more than $4,000 and the median is about $1,500, said Patrick M. Rooney, a professor of economics and philanthropic studies at Indiana University. 

 De Blasio’s two Brooklyn brownstones — his home at 442 11th St. in Park Slope and his mother’s former home down the street at No. 384 — generate considerable rental income for de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray. The rents were raised in recent years, but all the income was offset by expenses like taxes, mortgage payments and depreciation, so the city’s first couple ended up recording a loss of about $6,200 on the properties. 

 It appeared that the mayor had refinanced one or both properties, based on the magnitude of the mortgage interest declared on de Blasio’s return relative to the amount of depreciation claimed, according to Jay A. Friedman, tax partner at Perelson Weiner LLP. A spokeswoman for the mayor declined to say whether de Blasio had refinanced, except to say that the rules “were obviously followed.” 

 As for Cuomo, the payment from HarperCollins for his book, “All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life,” appeared to be a portion of his advance, bringing the total he has earned from the book — which did not sell well — to at least $400,000. His office declined to provide details of the book contract or sales figures. 

 “This payment was contractual and per the agreement with the publisher,” said his spokeswoman, Dani Lever, in an email. 

 It exceeded the $179,000 salary the governor earned last year from his day job.


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