A conservative group is filing a complaint with the District’s tax office against Virginia Democratic House candidate LuAnn Bennett, accusing her of failing to pay D.C. taxes.
The complaint is part of an effort of allies of Bennett’s opponent, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), to paint the challenger as out of touch with the district she hopes to represent.
The Washington-based Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust argued in a letter to the D.C. Office of Taxation and Revenue that Bennett lived in D.C. for more than half the years 2014 and 2015 and should have paid taxes there. The law requires anyone who spends at least 183 days in a year living in D.C. to pay taxes in the District.
Bennett owns a condominium in Washington, near her company’s Georgetown office, and a farm in Delaplane, Va., which was in the district she hopes to represent until lines changed in 2011. In December, she began renting a home in McLean, Va. She told the Post recently that while she occasionally spent nights at the D.C. apartment, she lived her life primarily in rural Virginia.
The group that filed the complaint pointed to a notice Bennett posted on her Facebook page in April 2014 in which she announced that she had moved to D.C. The post has since been deleted. The group also noted that she collected rental income on the farm during that time, but not on her D.C. property, and that the farm was sometimes put up for sale. Bennett said she had toyed with selling the property but continued to live there while waiting for a suitable offer. She rented out the stables on the farm, her campaign said.
“LuAnn has been a resident of northern Virginia for 35 years,” her campaign manager, Adam Zuckerman, said in a statement. “So that’s where she’s paid her taxes,” he said. “The rental income from her farm is not from her house — it’s from an apartment over a barn. The group that’s making this allegation is associated with the Koch Brothers, and appears to have formed this year to wage professional smear campaigns, like Barbara Comstock ran against President Clinton as a party operative.”
Bennett will face off against Comstock this fall in a suburban and exurban Virginia swing district where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is not very popular. Comstock and her allies hope to limit any damage from the presidential race by focusing on the district, where the congresswoman is more well-known than her rival. Part of that effort is challenging Bennett’s ties to Virginia. The National Republican Congressional Committee has repeatedly made accusations against Bennett that are echoed in FACT’s complaint, deeming the Democratic candidate “an elitist carpetbagger.”
Bennett inherited her D.C. real estate business after the death of her first husband; she was later married to Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), from whom she is now divorced.
FACT was organized last year as a response to watchdog groups on the left such as American Democracy Legal Fund and Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington. The group is backed by $1 million in seed money from donors who support conservative legal causes, according to people familiar with its origins. In a 2014 IRS filing, all of the group’s funds came from Donors Trust, a Virginia-based charity that serves as a clearing house for deep-pocketed conservative donors who wish to remain anonymous.