U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District is under fire following a report that shows he’s been late paying his property taxes 31 times during the past decade.
The findings challenge Poliquin’s image as an evangelist for fiscal discipline as he launches the first television ad of his re-election campaign.
Poliquin’s late property tax payments were discovered when the Associated Press inspected tax documents and payment histories of Maine’s congressional delegation. The report found that Poliquin had been assessed interest dozens of times for tardy payments for properties either owned by himself, jointly with his parents or through his development company.
The late payments include four since he was first elected to Congress in 2014.
“Thirty-one times in 10 years is more than just a little,” said Poliquin’s challenger Emily Cain.
Democrats, including Cain, wasted little time pouncing. They attempted to portray Poliquin as a tax evader, recycling an attack they used against him during a bitter 2014 campaign between him and Cain.
“It’s no surprise to me when we know, in the past, we know his pattern. It’s documented that he used tax loopholes to pay only $21 in property taxes on a multimillion-dollar coastal property,” Cain said.
Cain and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the D.C.-based group assisting her candidacy, both tied the late property tax payments to questions about Poliquin’s previous use of the Tree Growth Tax Law. The program, which Gov. Paul LePage targeted for an overhaul this year, gives significant tax breaks to landowners in exchange for sustainable, commercial timber harvesting.
Poliquin’s use of the program surfaced when he was state treasurer in 2011 and 2012. Some questioned whether the tax break was appropriate because his coastal Georgetown property also contained a deed restriction that prevented the harvesting of too many trees.
Poliquin eventually withdrew the property from the program after sustained criticism and scrutiny.
Poliquin’s campaign did not respond to a request for an interview for this story. But in a written statement, Poliquin attempted to portray the late payments as almost intentional and emblematic of his business acumen.
He said property tax payments for businesses require “thorough and complete review.” The tardy payments were simply “the cost of doing business.” He also said that he no longer owes any taxes.
The report of Poliquin’s late payments emerged as his campaign released its first television ad. The ad run is early in a state where election season typically doesn’t ramp up until after Labor Day.
According to the most recent Federal Communications Commission reports, Cain has not yet purchased ad time.
Outside interest groups have reserved time for early fall through the election. The groups are expected to spend heavily as they attempt to influence the contest, just as they did in 2014 when outside spending topped $3 million.
The AP’s property tax review also found that independent U.S. Sen. Angus King had five late payments since 1996. King said the late payments were mistakes that were quickly corrected upon discovery.
Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree had no late payments.
Pingree’s challenger, Mark Holbrook, has had late payments each year since 2008. Cain has had no late payments.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.