Republican US Senate nominee Gabriel E. Gomez, facing questions about a $281,500 historic tax deduction on his Cohasset home, rejected calls Thursday from the media and Democrats to release tax returns and other details about the deal.
“I have nothing to hide,’’ said Gomez on a campaign stop in Lawrence, when asked by a Globe reporter why he would not make public the details about how the federal tax deduction was calculated for the easement to limit changes on the home that the candidate and his wife bought for $2.1 million in November 2004.
Gomez insisted that the restriction easement that he gave to a controversial non-profit conservation group, the National Architectural Trust, in late 2005 was done legally. The Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based group, has been targeted by federal prosecutors who contend it had consistently arranged for “unwarranted’’ claims by home owners for the deductions.
The IRS, which has disallowed scores of such deductions by the Trust, had at the time listed preservation agreements such as the one the Gomezes signed as one of its “Dirty Dozen tax scams.” Gomez’s campaign said the couple’s deduction was never questioned by the IRS.
Asked if he regretted taking the huge deduction, Gomez was defiant: “Absolutely not. I followed the law,’’ he said. “We are not going to go on a fishing expedition.”
Gomez has previously released returns for the past six years, the same number released by the candidates in last year’s US Senate race, he said, but refused Thursday to release the couple’s return for 2005 when they took the deduction. It would reveal how much he financially gained from the deal.
“That’s it, end of story,’’ he said.
The campaign spat was sparked by a Globe story Thursday that revealed the Gomezes had taken the deduction as part of an agreement in which they gave the Trust an easement on the facade of their home. As part of the agreement, the couple gave control of the exterior of their home to the Trust, a concession that was counted as a monetary donation.
The restrictions for which the Gomezes received their large tax deduction were already legally binding on them by local bylaws, raising the question as to whether their donation — the price of which is based on the loss of value in their real estate — had any monetary worth.
Gomez, however, made it clear he was not backing down in face of media requests for his documents and attacks from Democrats.
Instead he turned his criticism to his Democratic rival, US Representative Edward J. Markey, saying the congressman’s attacks on him over the issue is the “height of hypocrisy” because the Malden Democrat had voted for the legislation that allows for the deduction. His campaign refers to a 1980 vote in which the program was renewed by unanimous consent in the US House.
“The only historical preservation Mr. Markey cares about is his political career,’’ Gomez said, hitting on his campaign theme that the race is between a fresh political face versus a veteran congressman who has served for 37 years in the House.
Markey’s spokeswoman, Giselle Barry, accused Gomez of taking advantage of what critics describe as tax loopholes available only to corporations and the super-wealthy.
“Unlike Gabriel Gomez, who bilked taxpayers by exploiting a tax break for the super-wealthy that shaved more than $280,000 off his taxable income, Ed Markey supports ending these unfair tax schemes, closing corporate tax loopholes, and leveling the playing field for Massachusetts families,” she said in a statement.
Gomez, a former Navy SEAL and private equity executive, also tried to deflect the partisan attacks by raising the point he was the son of Colombian immigrants and that he had earned the wealth he has now.
“It’s amazing that it would take a career politician from D.C. to slam the American dream,’’ Gomez said. “I guess that's what happens when you get into politics.”
The Massachusetts Democratic Party also went on the attack against Gomez for his deduction, with state party chairman John Walsh saying that the deduction “seems outrageous.’’
“It may show a guy very much different than the picture he’s trying to draw,’’ Walsh said at a press conference in the Boston party headquarters.
The controversy presents the first serious challenge to Gomez after his upset victory last week in the Republican primary.
It will test whether the GOP nominee, who has no electoral experience, has the political skills to deal with the tough media scrutiny and partisan attacks in a high stakes US Senate race.
It comes as some analysts feel that, by failing to launch a major advertizing blitz following the election, he missed an opportunity to play on his momentum and define his candidacy before the Democrats can.Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Joshua Miller can be reached at email@example.com