Ben Jealous, Democratic candidate for Maryland governor, releases tax returns

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Former NAACP president Ben Jealous, one of the two front-runners in the Democratic race for governor, released three years of his tax returns on Tuesday, showing he earned $1.3 million between 2015 and 2017.

The records show an average taxable income of $443,000 primarily for his work as a venture capitalist with California-based Kapor Capital. The firm invests in start-ups that work on social problems.

Jealous has been running as a progressive and embraced many policies of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign to help working families, including free college, universal health care and a $15 minimum wage.

His running mate, Susan Turnbull, also released her tax returns, showing that she and her husband, lawyer Bruce Turnbull, earned $2.14 million over the same period, an average of $725,000 per year.

Jealous paid an average of $18,000 a year in Maryland taxes, as well as paying some local taxes in New Jersey in 2016 and 2017. His 2017 tax returns show he was getting a federal credit for installing a geothermal heat pump.

He declined to release joint tax returns filed before 2015, when he got divorced from lawyer Lia Epperson. Instead, his campaign prepared a hypothetical tax record had Jealous filed as a single head-of-household for 2012-2014. The “demonstrative” document says Jealous earned $1.25 million over that period. The campaign said the actual tax returns “are not being exposed for public inspection” to protect Epperson’s “personal data.”

Three of Jealous’ competitors in the six-way Democratic primary have already released several years of tax returns, a disclosure they said promoted transparency and accountability.

The effort was led by state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno, who released his tax returns and called on his opponents to join him. Madaleno has been critical of President Donald J. Trump’s decision not to release his returns. Madaleno and his husband, Mark Hodge, earn about $180,000 a year, the records show.

Baltimore lawyer Jim Shea and his running mate Brandon Scott, a Baltimore city councilman, went next and became the first ticket to disclose five-years’ worth of tax returns. Shea’s returns show he and his wife Barbara earned $2.5 million a year, on average.

Without fanfare, tech entrepreneur and Alec Ross released two years of his tax returns on his website last week. They show that he and his wife, Felicity Ross, earned $775,000 last year — a drop from the almost $1.1 million he earned the year before.

Most of the couple’s income came from business sources, including royalties on his best-selling book. Wages accounted for only $29,000 in 2017 and almost $34,000 the year before.

In 2016, Ross ended up with a hefty federal tax due amount of nearly $90,000 despite paying $270,000 up front. But the next year he increased his quarterly federal tax payments despite a smaller income and claimed a refund of almost $80,000.

Ross paid $62,000 in state and local income taxes in 2017 and almost $90,000 the year before.

Two other major Democrats in the race have not released their returns and it appears unlikely they will do so before the June 26 primary.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has said he has filed public disclosures annually during his eight years as county executive and believes those documents are sufficient.

Krish Vignarajah, a lawyer and former aide to Michelle Obama, said she will only release her tax returns if all the men in the field release theirs.

Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated the nature of the bulk of the income Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross reported on his 2016 and 2017 income tax returns. The Sun regrets the error.

ecox@baltsun.com

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