The chair of the Allegheny County Democratic committee is calling on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether Republican congressional candidate Keith Rothfus of Sewickley has inappropriately avoided paying income taxes for political aides.
The campaign for Mr. Rothfus' opponent in the 12th District race, U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, has been hammering Mr. Rothfus lately for classifying campaign workers as independent contractors rather than employees. That means the staffers are responsible for paying their state and federal payroll taxes rather than the campaign covering a portion.
Rothfus campaign spokesman Jonathan Raso said it is complying with tax law and Mr. Critz's complaints are "straight out of the Obama playbook" and "completely false and offensively deceiving to the voters."
Nationally, some campaigns for both parties use the contractor model -- especially when employing itinerant political experts who work for different candidates across state lines -- but it is most common for them to treat their workers like regular employees. In the 18th District, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair paid the IRS $13,608 in payroll taxes the last quarter and opponent Larry Maggi, D-Washington, has paid at least $6,000.
"By not paying his taxes, Keith Rothfus shows that he has utter contempt for the rule of law and forces those that work for him to pay double the amount of taxes that they would pay if he were following the law," said Critz spokesman Mike Mikus, who himself is treated as a contractor.
Last quarter the Critz campaign paid about $17,500 in federal payroll taxes.
On Tuesday, Allegheny County Democratic chair Nancy Mills wrote letters to the IRS and the state Department of Revenue asking them to look into the matter.
Complaints usually have to be lodged by employees who think they are not being classified correctly. It comes down to whether Mr. Rothfus is intimately directing how the political work in his office is being performed.
Mr. Raso of the Rothfus campaign said the Critz team is showing it doesn't understand the challenges facing small offices.
"Not surprisingly, Congressman Critz has revealed he doesn't know the first thing about small businesses. More and more of the workers of southwestern Pennsylvania are finding seasonal work as contractors because they can't find work in the Obama/Critz economy," he said.
Tim McNulty: email@example.com or 412-263-1581. Follow the Early Returns blog at earlyreturns.sites.post-gazette.com or on Twitter at @EarlyReturns. First Published August 9, 2012 4:00 AM