INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican Senate candidate Todd Young presents himself as a squeaky clean, detail-oriented Marine who Indiana voters can trust to help “clean up” Washington, D.C., and be a responsible steward of tax dollars.
Yet public documents detailing both his personal and campaign accounts seem to paint a picture at odds with the image Young has sought to cultivate since entering Congress in 2011.
The congressman collected an improper tax deduction on a rental home, bounced a $4,000 check when making a payment on delinquent property taxes and was fined thousands of dollars by the Federal Election Commission for sloppy campaign finance practices.
Those details, reported individually in the past by The Associated Press and other news organizations, have largely gone under the radar in a race against Democratic former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh that will help determine which party controls the Senate next year.
Young has been largely successful so far in shifting the focus onto his Democratic opponent. Bayh, who primarily lives in Washington, sought lucrative work in the financial world even before leaving the Senate and cast votes that aligned with the priorities of his future bosses.
But in the closing days before the Nov. 8 election, Bayh and his allies are battling back.
A blitz of attack ads run on Bayh’s behalf have targeted Young for his tax and fundraising issues. They also have criticized his use of more than $500,000 in taxpayer money to send promotional mailers to people in his district — more than any other member of Indiana’s congressional delegation since 2010.
Bayh, Young and their political allies have launched bitter attack ads throughout the campaign. But in recent days, Bayh has tried to distance himself from the increasingly negative tone, suggesting the attacks are an “insult” to “our intelligence.”
Young’s campaign did not respond to direct questions from the AP about the Republican’s tax issues, use of congressional mailers or FEC fines.
“This race is a contrast in character. When Todd has made missteps he has always accepted responsibility,” said Young campaign spokesman Jay Kenworthy.
Young serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax issues. In 2014, he paid $5,300 in back taxes owed after local county officials determined he collected an improper homestead tax deduction in 2012 on a home he owned but was renting out in Bloomington, Indiana. Such exemptions can only be claimed on a homeowner’s actual residence.
That came on the heels of Young bouncing a $4,000 check while paying his property taxes in 2012 that had been four years delinquent, records show. Young was assessed about $2,300 in penalties for making late payments on the house between 2008 and 2012, according to the Monroe County Treasurer’s office. The tax exemption and delinquent payments were first reported by CNN in 2014.
Monroe county Treasurer Catherine Smith, a Democrat who is now running for county auditor, says she told the congressman that he was behind on his taxes multiple times, but it still took more than a year to pay them off.
“He should have come in that day,” said Smith, whose office handles tax collection and billing. “I’m just disappointed that any congressman would do that.”
Also in 2012, Young was fined more than $30,000 by the FEC for accepting almost $100,000 in excessive contributions during his first campaign, which exceeded federal limits on amounts individual donors can give. The AP reported the fine during the primary campaign last spring.
The FEC also found that he failed to report large campaign contributions within a required 48-hour time period. As a part of a settlement, Young was issued a $5,000 civil penalty.
Young previously said that he takes responsibility for the sloppy FEC practices, which his campaign has said occurred because he was new to politics and did not understand campaign finance rules.
Congressional records show that in six years in office, Young has spent more than $270,000 on the taxpayer-financed mailers, which are used to highlight lawmakers’ work in Washington. Those records show Young also spent more than $300,000 to pay consultants who specialize in the mailings.
That’s more than the other members of the Indiana delegation have spent since 2010.
“This is stuff coming unsolicited from members of Congress designed primarily to make themselves look good,” Bayh said last month in an interview with the AP.
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