Keith Ellison's tax cheating, scofflaw history comes back to haunt him

Just yesterday, John Sexton was looking at the continued effort to prop up Keith Ellison’s bid to be the next DNC chair and some of the problems he’s running into. These are not small issues, particularly when you focus on his not very distant history of dancing with the Nation of Islam and the disturbing strains of antisemitism in his comments on foreign policy. But the oppo file on Ellison is considerably deeper than that and problems which plagued him in the past are coming back around during this new round of scrutiny.

As The Hill reports, Ellison’s early years were marked by problems ranging from a failure to pay a significant amount of taxes to having his drivers license suspended.

Opponents of Rep. Keith Ellison’s bid to be the next Democratic National Committee chairman are raising new questions about the Minnesota Democrat’s past to make the case that he’s unfit to be the party’s next leader.

Ellison’s critics in the DNC and some supporters of Labor secretary Tom Perez, the other top candidate, are pointing to the Minnesota Democrat’s past tax troubles, campaign finance violations and minor legal issues that once led to his driver’s license being suspended as evidence that he’s ill-equipped to lead the DNC.

Some of those instances date back to the 1990s. All of the issues have been rectified and were previously used in attacks against Ellison during his first run for House in 2006.

Back then, Ellison’s ex-wife took the fall for most of these bookkeeping errors, but when you’re looking to assume a role with tremendous accountability and constant scrutiny, that’s rarely a great excuse. One of the top items on the list is the fact that Ellison wound up paying off a tax lien by the IRS to the tune of more than $18K. Considering how much a young elected official makes, that’s a significant oversight. Having your drivers license suspended obviously isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but when it’s done because of repeated failures to pay for traffic tickets you open yourself up to questions about how well you can manage your own affairs, say nothing of those of a national political party.

And there were campaign finance violations as well. All of these items were settled later on, but is this really the sort of baggage the Democrats want to haul in to the office of their new chairman? There’s also the question of implied hypocrisy, since whoever heads the party next will be expected to function as an attack dog against any Republicans who may run into similar trouble. (Emphasis added)

Bob Mulholland, a DNC member from California and one of 447 who will vote in the February election, says he has not backed a candidate yet but will not support Ellison.

“One Republican said to me, ‘You’re going to elect a tax cheat who drives without a license?’” Mulholland said. “It’s absurd.”

“If Ellison were running as a Republican, Democrats would attack him as a tax cheat, so I have no idea why Washington insiders are urging the grassroots to elect another insider. If you can’t drive or pay taxes, you can’t organize your life, so I concluded early on that he can’t organize for this job.”

The Democrats have a case to make in terms of “diversity” and identity politics in pushing for Ellison. If they’re not going to put another woman in charge, then Ellison checks off several other boxes on the list in terms of race and religion. He’s also considered something of an “outsider” as opposed to being part of the old guard of the party’s leadership. But this guy has a lot of history behind him for a person of his comparatively tender age. The Democrats are going to be defending nearly two dozen Senate seats in the midterms and will be kept quite busy being on the attack against Donald Trump for the next two years. Do they really want to have to constantly defend the DNC chair at the same time?