The Ford Flack Method: How to Turn a Simple Question into a Six-Day Tax-Dodging Story

After six glorious days, the festival of incompetent flackery that was the "Harold Ford Doesn't Pay His Taxes" story is over. Ford's spokesman has finally told us, on the record, that Ford filed New York returns in 2007 and 2008.

Well why didn't you just say so? To recap: We first posed a very simple question to Ford's spokesman—"Has he ever filed a New York tax return?"—one week ago today. The first response was a nonresponse: "He has paid New York taxes." That could mean that he pays sales tax. So we followed up, repeatedly: Has he ever filed a New York return?

Finally on Thursday, Ford said at a press availability that he will "file a return for the first time" in April. One of his spokespersons, Tammy Sun, repeated that statement to us: "He will file a NY tax return in April for the first time." When we pointed out that, given Ford's frequent work in New York City in 2007 and 2008 for Merrill Lynch and MSNBC, his failure to file in New York and pay state income tax on those earnings was likely illegal, Sun called us to furiously backpedal: Ford said he would file for the first time as a resident, she lied.

Even if Ford had said that—and he hadn't—that doesn't mean that he did file as a nonresident in 2007 and 2008, as required. When we asked Sun to tell us definitively and on the record that Ford filed New York returns for those years, she repeatedly refused. Which naturally raised suspicions in our minds. Then Ford's other spokesperson, Dan Abrams' pal David Goldin (who has been out of the country on his honeymoon for the past week), followed up with a statement saying that Ford "filed the appropriate New York tax returns for all income earned in New York." That answer also notably lacks a definitive statement that he filed in 2007 and 2008, despite the fact that we had practically begged for one. Then on Sunday, Ford himself attempted to address the question on Meet the Press, and still left the door open: "I paid taxes on all New York income the last two years." Well what if he claimed zero New York income?

So last night, after five Gawker items, a New York Daily News story, a NY1 story, and an Associated Press story noting the confusion over whether Ford had filed, Goldin finally answered the question we posed last week. Has Harold Ford ever filed a New York tax return?

This is very simple: Harold of course filed returns for his New York income in 2007 and 2008. And of course he's filing a resident return for 2009. There's never been any question about those facts, and if he becomes a candidate he'll of course release his taxes. Given he's not a candidate this is all rather odd — especially because the real disclosure issue is that the unelected senator won't explain why she does what Washington insiders tell her and not what's best for New Yorkers.

Yes, David. It is exceedingly simple. "Of course!" Nice work. And yes, it really annoys us too when political figures—and their press representatives—won't explain things.