Democrats have found a new weapon in their assault on potential Republican Senate candidate Dino Rossi.
The investment firm in which Rossi is a minority partner owes $20,000 in unpaid taxes on a business property in Everett, Washington, according to tax records from Snohomish County. Coast Equity Partners did not pay taxes, due in October 2009, on a multi-unit property that was rented to a motor sports dealership. (The sum includes roughly $18,000 in taxes and $2,500 in fees and penalties for delinquency.)
Speculation has mounted that Rossi will challenge Democratic Sen. Patty Murray this year. If he did, he would likely pose a serious threat.
A former state senator, Rossi has run for governor twice and lost narrowly twice. In 2004, he initially won the title of governor-elect before losing by 129 votes in a hand recount. He will have to decide by June 11, the state's filing deadline, whether or not to run. He would enter the field with good name recognition in a year that's expected to be tough on Democrats.
SurveyUSA shows Rossi leading Murray by 10 percentage points if he enters the race. Polls conducted by Rasmussen and Daily Kos/Research 2000 show Murray leading.
The tax information was uncovered by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which sent researchers to Snohomish to delve into Rossi's business records. It speaks to the DSCC's aggressive tack, specifically when it comes to opposition research, in the 2010 election cycle, as the committee seeks to fiercely protect vulnerable Democratic-held seats. Rossi hasn't even announced his candidacy, and the DSCC has set up a website, dirtydealsdinoforsenate.com, dedicated to portraying him as a scummy guy prone to questionable business deals.
Sending opposition researchers to dig up records on an unannounced Senate candidate, months before the filing deadline, qualifies as an aggressive move. It's the type of legwork that goes into building dossiers on major potential presidential candidates, like Romney, Huckabee and McCain in 2008.
Indiana Republican Dan Coats received similar treatment from the DSCC in February. As soon as Coats announced a bid for the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, Democrats pounced on Coats with research on his status as a registered lobbyist who was registered to vote in Virginia. Democrats threw out suggestions that Coats had lobbied for PhRMA and had lobbying ties to foreign interests.
The unpaid taxes in Washington may have nothing to do with Rossi, individually. "It definitely is nothing Dino is involved in," Coast Equity Partners CEO Tom Hoban told the Everett Herald, which broke the news at midnight, Thursday morning. Hoban said the unpaid taxes were just being brought to his attention, and that Coast Equity would contact investment partners to discuss it.
Rossi joined the Seattle-based firm as a minority partner in December 2008.
Regardless of Rossi's connection to the taxes, the tidbit of research will undoubtedly be used by Democrats, as it fits into the narrative they are seeking to build about him as a businessman, in an attempt to damage and embarrass him as mulls whether or not to run.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.