Last week, my column dealt with the quixotic campaign of Peter A. Ross, who is spending $200,000 of his own money in a bid to unseat incumbent Shadow Sen. Michael A. Brown in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
That piece and others written about Ross have him discussing his wealth as coming from his furniture business, Spectrum Limited — a business that went south in the late 1990s, leading to the financial troubles that would include a felony conviction for federal tax evasion, but has recovered enough in the years since to pay off his debts and bankroll his campaign.
But Ross has another source of wealth he has not volunteered to discuss, an inheritance from wealthy parents that provides him with income of at least $350,000 a year.
Ross is the son of Eric F. Ross, a Holocaust survivor and plastics magnate who died in 2010. His wife, Lore, died in 2009. Together, they gave $30 million to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum — including a $17.2 million bequest, the largest single gift in the museum’s history.
Eric Ross’s bequeathed gifts to the museum and other institutions were enough to make him the 16th most generous American philanthropist of 2011, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The estates of Eric and Lore Ross have been the subject of long-running probate cases in Palm Beach County, Fla., that have prompted family disputes involving their son, according to court records.
Wills involved in the probate cases show Ross has been bequeathed a combined $4.5 million in trust, to be paid at a rate of $100,000 per year in the case of his mother’s estate and $250,000 per year in the case of his father’s.
Ross’s lawyer, David Lamb, declined to discuss his client’s personal finances. But one element of his wealth that Ross discussed in his Post interview can be directly tied to his inheritance. The Palm Beach home mentioned in my column, a condominium worth about $700,000, was transferred from his father’s estate to the trust established for Ross under his father’s will last October, according to property records.
But Ross said he stands by the narrative he’s presented — of a businessman who built a fortune, lost nearly everything and then built it back up again.
“That inheritance came after I had paid off my tax liability,” he said Thursday. “This business has been built up from when I had absolutely nothing.”
Documents provided by Ross showed he settled his $203,651 debt with the Internal Revenue Service in June 2010, after his mother’s death, but several months before his father’s. Washington City Paper raised questions Wednesday about whether Ross has paid the District government what it is due.
Asked if he’d be able and willing to spend $200,000 on his campaign without the inheritance, Ross paused for a time and said, “Yes, yes, yes.”
Ross is also facing questions raised by Brown about a lawsuit filed in 2005, by a family that rented a rowhouse Ross and his wife owned in Northeast D.C. near Union Station. Their suit alleged that the family’s toddler son contracted lead poisoning while living in the house from 1998 to 2001; a 1999 city inspection found lead paint chips and dust in the home.
The case was settled in September 2007 for $162,500.
Ross said Thursday the case was handled by his insurance company and he had no input on the litigation or the settlement. He no longer owns any rental properties in the city.