WASHINGTON — Republican Kentucky Senate candidate Matt Bevin failed to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in federal tax liens when he applied for a $100,000 grant from the State of Connecticut to use for the reopening of his family's bell business, documents obtained by BuzzFeed show.
Bevin is mounting a conservative primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the fight over the grant to Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Co. is a clear early indicator of how heated, and nasty, that race could become.
According to state and federal records, as part of the application process, Bevin certified that at the time of the grant in June 2012 "there are no federal tax claims or liens" owed to the IRS by the company.
The initial application for the grant, signed by Bevin's business manager Jeffery True, also indicates that the company does not have "any delinquent State, Federal or Local Taxes."
But the company did in fact have an outstanding $74,283.49 IRS tax lien which it was in the process of paying off before the company's factory was struck by lightening and destroyed by fire. This debt was not fully paid off until more than a month after the grant agreement was inked.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Bevin said prior to taking over the family business, the company had entered into a payment plan with the government, paying the IRS $5,000 a month, until the fire happened. After the accident, the IRS agreed to suspend payments.
Bevin said he subsequently decided to simply pay off the lien rather than continue in the payment plan, and that on "Sept. 11, 2012 the remaining balance was paid. It was 27,000 bucks." The lien was ultimately released by the government in November 2012.
Bevin dismissed the notion that he or the company either misled the state of Connecticut or did anything improper in not disclosing the lien in his application, pointing to language in the "Assistance Agreement" requiring the company to have "filed all federal, state, and municipal income and other tax returns which are required to be filed, and has paid, or made provision for the payment, of all taxes which have become due pursuant to said returns" as covering the lien payment agreements.
"This was good to go because we'd made arrangements" to pay the lien, Bevin said.
The 2012 grant has become an early point of contention in Bevin's primary challenge to McConnell.
Almost immediately after Bevin announced his challenge, McConnell released an ad accusing him of not paying thousands of back taxes immediately after Bevin entered the race. That ad was rated as "mostly false" by politifact.com, but the issue has remained an a point of contention for the conservative upstart that he has had to repeatedly battle.
For his part, Bevin has maintained he did not actively seek out the state's financial assistance, and has sought to turn the dustup back on McConnell.
"The reality is McConnell is bringing this issue up as a distraction … It's a smoke screen for the fact that he is a liberal, big government, bailout guy. He's the king of the bailouts. And it's ironic that the master of the bailouts would try to distract people with this nonsense," Bevin told the Daily Caller in July.
In his interview with Buzzfeed, Bevin again dismissed the idea that he had sought out the grant. While he acknowledged his company did submit an application, it did so only after officials East Hampton — which is known as "Bell Town" — approached the state to help rebuild the factory, which is an economic cornerstone of the community. "I did not initiate the conversations. The state came to the town [with the possibility of a grant]. I didn't even have an office in the town," Bevin said.
After discussing the possibility of a grant, Bevin agreed to apply for the money, which he said is a standard formality.
"When you get money from some entity, you have to sign for it … you bet your sweet betsy somebody signed for it" when the grant was made, Bevin said.
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
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