Congressional hopeful Kevin Powell’s faltering campaign to unseat 27-year incumbent Rep. Ed Towns (D–Fort Greene) was dealt a death blow on Friday after reports indicated that he owes the taxman $615,000 — and then tried to divert attention by decrying Towns’s political consultant for “nasty dirision.”
Powell, the “Real World” reality TV star turned author and motivational speaker, was forced to reveal his tax woes in a personal financial disclosure form that he finally filed — three months late — with the House Ethics Committee.
Towns’s campaign jumped on the disclosure.
“Kevin Powell’s financial situation shows that his qualifications do not meet the qualifications of a candidate,” said Hank Sheinkopf, Towns’s spokesman campaign. “That fact that he owes almost a million dollars in taxes … and has a slim resume of public service does not a congressman make.”
Powell got 33 percent of the vote against Towns in 2008.
Powell intended to address his tax issue with the media on Friday morning, but abruptly canceled a press conference. He then opted to address the issue in a post on a Web site, where, amid bible quotes and recollections from a poverty-stricken childhood, he admitted his debt to Uncle Sam.
He also claimed that the amount on the financial disclosure statement was an overestimate.
“[The debt] is definitely not what is on the financial disclosure statement,” he said.
Then he tried to make himself out to be the Everyman.
“Having debt, struggling to pay one’s mortgage or rent, or owing taxes does not make you a bad person,” he wrote. “It makes you a regular person, one of millions and millions of Americans who are in similar situations.”
Yet Powell’s situation is far from regular.
According to the financial disclosure form, he made $300,000 in the last 18 months — a salary that puts him in the top 97 percent of American households.
Initially, Powell said he was the victim of the “sub-prime mortgage crisis,” but he later admitted that he did not have a sub-prime mortgage at all, but a regular fixed monthly mortgage of $5,000 a month for a condo that he and his mother co-own inside the tony Toy Factory Lofts on Johnson Street between Gold and Prince Streets in Downtown.
Powell said his main source of income came from giving speeches at colleges. When the recession hit, many universities cut their speaker series, he said.
Later in the day, the Powell campaign put out a rambling statement that sought to divert attention from the financial problems by calling Sheinkopf a “political mercenary” who actually tried to get a job with Powell last time around.
“[He] approached Kevin Powell in 2008 claiming that [Towns] … had done nothing for the district and that only his style of attack politics could deliver Kevin the election,” said Powell spokesman Aaron Golembiewski. “Our candidate decided against hiring Mr. Sheinkopf because he was disgusted by the nasty derision he brought to the table and preferred to engage congressman on the issues. That Mr. Sheinkopf and Mr. Towns would brutally attack Kevin Powell when he admits his financial situation is extremely tenuous, and that he still pushed forward with his campaign because of his love for his community, demonstrates that Kevin Powell made a good decision to say no to Mr. Sheinkopf.”
It’s not the first time that paperwork has revealed something about the Powell campaign. Two years ago, he failed to file with the Federal Election Commission even though he was already raising money for his campaign.