Steyer Deducted $181 Million for SALT: Campaign Update

Bill Allison

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Tom Steyer wrote off the $181 million he paid in state and local taxes over nine years, according to tax returns released by his presidential campaign Thursday.

His income totaled $1.2 billion from 2009 through 2017, and SALT was his single biggest deduction in all nine years. His total income was $146.3 million in 2017, when he claimed a $26.9 million write-off for state and local taxes. His campaign said he’d release his 2018 return when it was available, but he may have paid far more in federal taxes as the Republican-controlled Congress has capped the SALT deduction at $10,000.

Steyer, who has advocated for a wealth tax, has consistently been among the top U.S. political donors. In 2017, he spent $65.4 million on political activities, according to a memo accompanying the documents he released.

The hedge fund manager, a California resident, has said he could spend as much as $100 million on his 2020 presidential campaign, though he is foundering in the polls and failed to qualify for a candidate debate next month. He has spent an estimated $10.8 million on television advertising since launching his campaign in July, according to Advertising Analytics LLC.

Biden Defends Anecdote About Afghanistan Incident (4:45 p.m.)

Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden brushed aside a report that he recently told an inaccurate story about traveling to Afghanistan to honor a heroic Navy captain, arguing that the “central point” of his account was “absolutely accurate.”

Biden’s comments on Thursday came in response to a Washington Post article challenging the accuracy of the anecdote, saying that Biden had “jumbled elements of at least three actual events into one story of bravery, compassion and regret that never happened.”

At a campaign stop last week, Biden recalled visiting Afghanistan during his years as vice president and meeting the captain, who had rappelled down a ravine under enemy fire to retrieve the body of another American, and later refused to accept a Silver Star medal that Biden tried to pin on him.

Biden said Thursday in Rock Hill, South Carolina, that he hadn’t read the Post story, but insisted he’d stayed true to the thrust of the incident.

“The story was that he refused the medal because the fella he tried to save and risked his life saving, died,” he told the Post and Courier. “That’s the beginning, middle and end. The rest of you guys can take it and do what you want with it.” -- Jennifer Epstein

Google, Twitter to Discuss 2020 Disinformation (3:50 p.m.)

Google, Facebook and Twitter have been invited by the head of the Federal Election Commission to explore ways to combat digital disinformation in the 2020 elections.

The all-day symposium on Sept. 17 will examine new types of false information spread online that could be used to influence elections. In 2016, Russia used online platforms in a bid to support the candidacy of President Donald Trump, according U.S. intelligence agencies.

Ellen Weintraub, the head of the agency, is co-hosting the event, which will also include academics, congressional staffers and political organizations, according to an official at the agency. The event was first reported by Politico.

Spokespersons for Facebook and Twitter said the companies are planning to attend. Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The other co-hosts are the Global Digital Policy Incubator at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center and PEN America. The FEC as an agency isn’t involved. -- Bill Allison

Gabbard Says She Won’t Run as an Independent (12:30 p.m.)

Tulsi Gabbard may have qualms about some of her rivals, but she’s ruling out an independent bid for president if she fails to get the Democratic nomination.

“No, I have ruled that out,” the Hawaii congresswoman told CNN Thursday.

Gabbard failed to qualify for the September primary debate by Wednesday’s deadline and is polling at 1.4%, according to the RealClearPolitics average. But in the first two debates, she filled a unique role as Trump supporters’ favorite Democrat. An Iraq war vet, she frequently appears on Fox News and has challenged the orthodoxy of both parties on foreign policy.

On Wednesday, she complained to Fox News about a lack of transparency in the criteria for Democratic primary debates and said the party is run by “a small group of really powerful political elites.”

Speculation of a third-party run had been driven by Gabbard’s unusually harsh criticism of some of her rivals, particularly Kamala Harris, as unqualified. -- Gregory Korte

Harris Offers Plan for People With Disabilities (6:00 a.m.)

Kamala Harris vows to increase grants and strengthen rules aimed at bolstering opportunity for people with disabilities if she’s elected president in 2020.

Her campaign said that a Harris proposal released Thursday would enhance Department of Education programs aimed at helping disabled people get jobs. It would also use the powers of the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development to strengthen accessibility rules for new projects to qualify for funding.

The proposal says Harris, California’s junior senator, would “have diverse leaders with disabilities developing all the policies her administration champions.”

Her nine-point plan includes legislative proposals to increase wages of disabled workers and resources for teachers of students with disabilities. It also calls for the U.S. to ratify the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. -- Sahil Kapur

COMING UP

Climate change takes center stage at a CNN town hall on Sept. 4. The Democratic National Committee has rejected demands from climate activists and several candidates for a party-sponsored debate solely on that issue.

--With assistance from Sahil Kapur, Gregory Korte, Bill Allison and Jennifer Epstein.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Allison in Washington DC at ballison14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Max Berley, John Harney

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