Did Dudley do it or didn’t he? And if he did, how much was it?
The issue is whether Chris Dudley tried to avoid paying Oregon income taxes when he was a center for the Portland Trail Blazers. Former Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, locked in a tight race with the ex-NBA player, has been airing an ad charging that Dudley doesn’t really care about Oregon because he “lived in Washington to avoid paying taxes that support our schools and health care.”
The Dudley campaign admits that on the advice of his accountant, Dudley lived in Camas, WA from 1994 to 1998 to reduce his tax burden – but says he still paid more than $400,000 in Oregon income tax during that period, plus donating six-figure sums to Oregon charities.
(The tax picture for pro athletes like Dudley gets pretty complicated: Under the rules, Dudley would have had to pay Oregon income taxes on money he earned playing in Portland but not out of state.)
Blue Oregon contributor J. Graber, who describes himself as “a former journalist and a graduate student in strategic communications at the University of Oregon, Portland campus,” is skeptical of Dudley’s numbers.
“We don’t even really know for sure how much he did pay,” Graber writes. “Duds’ campaign first said he paid $460,000 in taxes for those years, but now claims that number is actually closer to $440,000.”
Graber questions Dudley’s portrayal of himself as a naïve kid who simply followed the advice of his accountant, noting that Dudley graduated from Yale with a double major in political science and economics and that following his basketball career he became a professional financial adviser.
Graber also suspects Dudley isn’t giving us the whole picture about his income, arguing that the $12.7 million he earned from the Blazers during those years probably was only part of it:
“It’s not much of a stretch to figure someone pulling down that kind of money also earned things like dividends, interest and capital gains. Only Duds knows for sure what he really earned from '93 to '97, or how much he avoided paying in taxes, and guess what, he ain’t talkin'. Statistics suggest the average person in Duds’ income bracket would have earned about another $4.7 million from '93 to '97 … not to mention any do-re-mi he may have got from endorsement deals.”
Is Graber blowing smoke? Is the Kitzhaber campaign’s attempt to make an issue out of Dudley’s taxes a desperation move? Maybe so. But Dudley could quickly blow his critics out of the water if he’d release his tax returns.