Tax returns turn political

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LENOX -- L. Scott Laugenour, a Green-Rainbow Party candidate for state representative in the 4th Berkshire District, is following the lead of fellow party member and gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein in releasing his 2009 tax returns.

Laugenour, a Lenox resident running against state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said he released his state and federal returns, which candidates are not required to do, for the sake of transparency.

Laugenour's joint family income, including that of his husband, Mark Woodward, a paralegal in New York, was $178,391 for 2009. Laugenour's personal taxable income was $31,076, primarily coming from consulting work in the hospitality industry. The couple paid $8,876 in sate taxes and Laugenour paid $2,841 in federal taxes.

Lagenour has made the returns available to any one seeking them by contacting Jeff Turner at jeff@scottlaugenour.org.

Laugenour released his returns after hearing of Stein's response to an Associated Press request for the tax returns of the state's gubernatorial candidates. So far, Stein has been the only candidate running for governor to provide the information to the news agency.

"It gives voters a more complete picture and we [the Green-Rainbow Party] believe in transparency," said Laugenour.

Pignatelli, seeking his fifth term as a state representative, called the move a "political ploy," adding that Laugenour's actions show "how truly green he is in this political process."

"If he wants to disclose his tax returns, go for it. I don't see any relevancy whatsoever in it," said Pignatelli. "This is his big issue? It's kind of sad."

Pignatelli said he already discloses all of his income and earnings and is subject to an annual ethics review.

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"It's only this job that you're held to a higher standard, and I've abided by every law over the last eight years. I'm an open book," said Pignatelli.

Mark C. Miller, a Pittsfield resident and Green-Rainbow Party member seeking to unseat 3rd Berkshire District state Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, said he will release his returns when he formally kicks off his campaign in the coming weeks.

"It has to do with truth and transparency," said Miller. "People who are going for this, going to be in public life, especially if they are going to be taking campaign contributions, should have all of their finances known by the people who are voting for them."

Speranzo also noted the financial interests and liabilities forms state officials are required to fill out.

"I think that is sufficient," said Speranzo. "I just don't see the need to do anything further."

The problem with releasing tax returns as well, Speranzo said, is it would require his wife, who is not in public office, to divulge her personal income.

Other candidates for state representative in Berkshire County responding to inquiries from The Eagle did not see the relevance of releasing their own returns, especially since all candidates must submit a statement of financial interests to the state Ethics Commission.

"I don't think there is a big push in who makes what and why," said Thomas S. Szczepaniak, a Dalton Democrat and one of six candidates running to fill the 2nd Berkshire District seat. "The voters -- they're asking about the issues, not tax returns."

To reach Trevor Jones: tjones@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 528-3660.


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