Saturday, August 7, 2010

Congressional Hopeful Kevin Powell Says Being Deep In Debt Doesn't "Make You A Bad Person" by Celeste Katz - NY Daiily News

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And that's lucky, because according to the research of our DC bureau's Mike McAuliff, if being deep in debt DID make you a bad person, Kevin Powell would be way up there in the bad-guy pantheon.

Powell, the former "Real World" star who's taking his second swing at challenging incumbent Brooklyn Rep. Edolphus Towns, owes the IRS somewhere between $615,000 and $1.3 million.

Today, he's explaining his situation in a lengthy essay sent out to the press which also appears on HuffPo. (Powell was supposed to be holding an actual news conference, but it was cancelled.)

The candidate writes of his impoverished childhood, getting kicked out of college with no diploma but heavy debt, ending up on MTV and writing for Vibe magazine before things took a serious turn for the worse. His speaking engagements dried up due to the economy. He got his mom to buy a friend's Brooklyn condo (no money down) on the condition that he'd handle the mortgage payments, but couldn't keep up.

Overall, Powell paints a picture of a man who "gone from the poor ghetto child who had been tossed from college to a 20something and very well-known writer for America's fastest growing publication" -- and screwed up badly along the way.

He claims his situation mirrors that of many struggling Americans.

A few excerpts from Powell's statement:

* "One of my most vivid memories of my childhood is my mother and I going to the local deli and getting baloney, with my mother always nudging the butcher 'to slice it a little thicker, please.' It was her way of saying, 'We do not have any money, and I need this baloney to last as long as possible.'"

* "...having debt, struggling to pay one's mortgage or rent, or owing taxes does not make you a bad person. It makes you a regular person, one of millions and millions of Americans who are in similar situations regardless of race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or geography. This, in fact, is one of the reasons why I decided to run for Congress again in 2010, after my first real bid in 2008.

* "...once my relationship with Vibe soured in 1996, I plunged into an alcoholic-fueled depression for the remainder of the 1990s, not paying much attention to my finances, and allowing a hack accountant to know more about my financial life than I did."

* " accountant and I purposely estimated high on my campaign's recent financial disclosure statement, as we are still talking with the IRS about what the actual amount is. It is definitely not what is on the financial disclosure statement. This is a process, but one that is happening, because I am a man and a leader who takes responsibility for all my actions, always. And only with this second accountant, and a great attorney, over these past few years, have I been able to correct a lot of previous mistakes made, including bad contracts I unwittingly signed for various business deals that went south."

And here's the slam from Towns spox Hank Sheinkopf:

"While Representative Towns was fighting insurance and banking special interests, Kevin Powell was leading a celebrity life and running up a tax bill approaching one millon dollars. In Brooklyn, planet Earth, regular people don't owe up to a million bucks in taxes. What planet is Powell on? He doesn't pay his taxes, appears to be unable to follow the election law, doesn't file federally mandated financial disclosure forms on time. Powell: Uniquely unqualified for public life."