By FITSNews || A Republican S.C. lawmaker who is facing misdemeanor state tax charges will appear in court next week – but it could be his accusers at the S.C. Department of Revenue and a powerful political opponent who end up taking heat in the court of public opinion.
S.C. Rep. Kris Crawford (R-Florence) is facing four misdemeanor counts for allegedly failing to file tax returns in a timely manner from 2004-07, although he claims that his tax issues stem from an error made by his former accountant, that all “necessary documents have been filed” and that his state taxes have been “paid in full.” In fact, the buzz among Palmetto politicos is why Crawford (who sources at the Revenue Department acknowledge has been cooperating with officials since the error was initially discovered) is being singled out for prosecution.
“This is nothing but lawmaker-on-lawmaker violence,” one of Crawford’s legislative allies told FITS. “This is a State Senator trying to use his power to eliminate a person (who) he views as a political threat.”
The lawmaker declined to name the State Senator allegedly targeting Crawford, but added that “it’s no coincidence this (story) is breaking during filing,” referring to the two-week period during which candidates must file for State House and statewide elections – a period which ends on Tuesday.
Based on our previous reporting, there can be little doubt that the lawmaker was referring to none other than Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, who was recently accused of targeting Crawford and another Florence GOP lawmaker. Shortly after our story ran, however, Leatherman did an about-face and endorsed both Crawford and Lowe – although we’re informed he was pressured to do so by SCGOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd (who as irony would have it recently resolved some late tax issues of her own).
Anyway, the notion that the Department of Revenue would leak tax information to certain politicians (and not others) has obviously struck a nerve with members of the legislature.
“If (DOR) is declaring open season on the General Assembly then fine – dig through all of our returns and I bet there’s plenty to be found,” one lawmaker told FITS. “It’s the witch hunts and playing political favorites that’s going to get them in trouble.”
Crawford is being prosecuted under a “catch-all” section of the S.C. revenue code, which grants wide latitude to those enforcing state tax law.
Here’s the wording of the statute:
A person required under any provision of law administered by the department and who wilfully fails to pay any estimated tax or tax, or who is required by any provision of law or by any regulation and who wilfully fails to make a return, keep records, or supply information, at the time or times required by law or regulation, in addition to other penalties provided by law, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than ten thousand dollars, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both, together with the cost of prosecution.
On Saturday, Crawford issued the following statement to FITS:
In 2004, I hired a CPA to handle all tax matters for me, my family, and our business. It has come to my attention that the South Carolina Department of Revenue believes some of our tax documents were filed late. This will not affect my ability to serve in the House and I will continue to seek reelection. I want the people of House District 63 to know that all my South Carolina taxes have been paid in full and all necessary documents have been filed. We have had a new CPA for some time and will remain vigilant in meeting our tax obligations in a timely manner. Over the coming weeks as this session ends, I will be continuing to push for protections for our seniors, making out roads safer and restraining government growth. I look forward to addressing all these issues throughout our Florence community.
Crawford declined further comment pending his court hearing Tuesday in Florence. He also refused to respond to the rumors regarding Leatherman.
Several of Crawford’s GOP colleagues were outraged, though, and vowed to investigate any connections between Leatherman, his supporters and the State Department of Revenue.
“The fact that this level of resources are going toward prosecuting an individual who has corrected the problem and already paid his debts is ridiculous,” said another of Crawford’s legislative allies. “DOR needs to be worried about collecting revenue, not trying to embarrass people.”