Democratic House candidate Pam Gulleson cites tough times in her family's agricultural business for several years of late payment of property taxes, as disclosed recently by a Minot blogger.
An online article by Rob Port of Minot indicated that Gulleson's fees on late payments totaled $38,211 from 1990 through 2005. The article was distributed to media by the campaign of Republican House candidate Kevin Cramer.
Gulleson, who farms with her husband, Bill, near Rutland in southeastern North Dakota, took aim at Cramer for distributing the article.
"This just shows that Kevin Cramer and his friends don't understand what farmers in this state go through to feed our nation. We faced hard times, just like many other family farmers in North Dakota, and throughout the nation. But we stuck together, and paid back all of the taxes, with interests and fees. We had to fight to keep our family farm together. I still have calluses on my fingers from hanging onto the edge of that cliff," she said in a prepared statement.
"Those struggles taught me just how important a strong farming safety net and crop insurance are for our farmers. That's why I'll always fight for a Farm Bill in Congress. It's clear that my opponent just doesn't get it. He won't fight for North Dakota's farmers in the House."
Cramer said Gulleson is trying to deflect attention from her situation by suggesting he doesn't support farmers. Although he said he has empathy for her financial struggles, he added Gulleson must answer to why recovery took 15 years years in which she collected a government paycheck as a legislator and aide to former Sen. Byron Dorgan.
Port, who writes a conservative blog, Say Anything, previously has published tax information from other candidates, both Republicans and Democrats. Among his most notable disclosures was that state Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, failed to file federal and state income tax returns between 2004 and 2009, resulting in a state tax lien of more than $300,000 against her and her husband. Kelsch attributed the omission to an oversight resulting from a string of family health and other problems.
Port said tax information is important for voters to know, particularly in cases where candidates will be making fiscal decisions for the state and country.
"To me, it's not a partisan issue so much as it is just a transparency issue," he said.
For many of the assessment years, the Gullesons came within months of the five years delinquency that would have triggered the county's right to confiscate the property before paying off the debt, Port wrote in his blog. State law changed in 2007 to enable the county to seize property after three years of delinquency.
Gulleson said she has never hid that her family faced financial challenges.
"That's one of the reasons I ran for office back in the early 1990s to give a voice to fellow farmers who were going through the same thing. Today we've paid all of our taxes, penalties and interest in full, and our sons are back farming with us in Sargent County," she said. "Because of that experience, I understand why crop insurance and a strong Farm Bill are so important. I know what our middle class families, farmers and small business owners face as they work to provide a living for their families."