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By now you may know that Pete Ross is willing to spend a ridiculous amount of his own money to be D.C.’s next unpaid, powerless shadow senator. He’s given his campaign $202,000 and has already spent nearly $70,000 of that on posters, literature, advertising in this publication, and a small army of field workers that seem to be at every event LL goes to.
And you probably also already know by now that Ross has a checkered past. He pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion charges in 2007 for lying on bankruptcy forms and failing to disclose all of his assets after his furniture business hit a rough patch and couldn’t pay $200,000 worth of federal payroll taxes.
Speaking of his legal troubles, Ross told the Post: “Since that mistake, I have made restitution and sorted out my life again, and both my record and conscience are clear … I made restitution and I paid everything.”
Well, maybe not everything.
A deeper dive into the bankruptcy filings of Ross’s company, Spectrum LTD, shows that it wasn’t just federal incomes taxes that went unpaid. The District’s Office of Tax and Revenue also filed a claim for $441,734.40 in mostly unpaid sales and use taxes, interest, and penalties. A spokeswoman for OTR says that when the business was dissolved and its assets sold off, the city’s take came out to a measly $11,639.76—or about $430,000 less than what the District says it was owed. No additional payments have been received on that debt, the spokeswoman says.
The Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s website makes pretty clear that corporate bankruptcies don’t dissolve business owners of unpaid business taxes. But Ross’ lawyer, David Lamb, says his client has never been assessed any debt since the bankruptcy related to the city’s claim of unpaid taxes.
Lamb also suggests that the city’s claim could very well be bogus. He says it’s not uncommon for the the city to misapply sales taxes on local businesses and notes that Ross’ company made its sales out of state. (Lamb declined to allow LL to speak to Ross about the case.)
The OTR spokeswoman did not respond to a question about why the office never pursued Ross, who isn’t shy about boasting of his wealth, for the rest of the unpaid claim.
To be perfectly clear: if the city doesn’t pursue him for the unpaid taxes, Ross is under no legal obligation to pay them. But LL can’t help but thinking that maybe the $202,000 Ross is prepared to spend on a silly sideshow of a race could be put to better use.