Maybe Stuart Smalley could charm his way out of a tax-evasion problem, but Al Franken has to face the music in 17 states. The Star Tribune reports that Franken’s total tax bill will run to over $70,000 for a four-year period in which he ignored tax responsibilities, putting his Senate campaign in serious risk of utter collapse:

DFL U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken, frontrunner in the race to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, owes $70,000 in back taxes in 17 states, where he earned income going back to 2003.

Franken on Tuesday told the Associated Press that he never intended to avoid paying taxes and that on the advice of his accountant, had paid taxes to the city and state where he lived.

Franken has been under fire since early March, when a Republican operative revealed that Franken had failed to pay workers’ compensation and disability premiums for employees of his New York-based corporation, Alan Franken, Inc., between 2002 and 2005.

New York state officials had tried to collect the back premiums for four years, resorting to a collection agency and even filing a summary judgment against Franken in state Supreme Court last May for $25,000.

The “Republican operative”, my friend Michael Brodkorb, has worked this story for over a month. The Strib didn’t bother to do this kind of research on Al Franken, and neither did the DFL, Minnesota’s Democratic Party affiliate. They have continued to use the “Republican operative” appellation even though Michael no longer works for the Republican Party, and insinuate a political attack when it turns out that Michael reported nothing but the truth.

In fact, Michael underestimated Franken’s incompetence. He assumed that the problems were limited to only New York and California. As it turns out, Franken never filed any tax returns for income in states other than his residence, even though his corporation generated revenue in one-third of the states in the US.

Did Franken intend to evade his tax responsibilities? I’d say it’s much more likely that he just didn’t care enough to figure out what they were, although he certainly knew enough to incorporate to gain legitimate tax advantages. Now he wants Minnesotans to believe that he cares about their concerns when he didn’t care enough about his own business to run it properly. The voters — and taxpayers — of Minnesota are not going to have much affection for someone who has more in common with Leona Helmsley than with themselves.

Update: The Lady Logician wonders why Franken wouldn’t get the same treatment as Wesley Snipes.  Snipes was more of a refusenik and it was with the feds, not the states.  Franken just ignored his liabilities, not as a protest but just as someone who didn’t want to part with his cash.

The bigger question: how does he rally the people who are Happy to Pay for a Better Minnesota when he’s not happy to pay at all?