Hick and Tanc and Taxes

It is not like John Hickenlooper needs a new nickname. Denver's Mayor seems to like the moniker Hick, and he has no doubt heard less flattering variations on his name. How about Teflon John Hickenlooper as a back-up? Like the Gipper, nothing seems to stick on the Denver Mayor.

Perhaps the Mayor, like Ernie Els and New Orleans, should be called the Big Easy - deriving from the phrase "conservation easement" and the fantastic financial windfall it provided. Some mean people might shorten the word conservation and call John the Big Con, but that would not be nice. Regardless, the phrase "conservation easement" only enhances Hick's proven appeal to rich and mellow conservatives.

After all, Teflon John is one of them - a mover and a shaker. More than anything, since his laid-off geologist days, Hick has been a moneymaker.

No class warfare here. I admire the Mayor's business acumen. He has the business experience and successes that leaders like President Obama lack. Everything Hick did to get to the top of the millionaire mountain appears to have been perfectly legal. Peddling beer has been permissible since prohibition ended. Hick had the bright idea to brew it too.

Smart buying of real estate is another proven path to riches. Private property rights are a key a component of what makes America great. Keep the government out of it as much as possible.

So let us look at the known facts about Hick's Park County conservation easement property that proved so lucrative. First, Hick and his partner bought parcels of private land. They then swapped their land to the government and obtained the Park County land, plus $190,000 cash from Uncle Sam.

Next, the Mayor's property received governmental approval to subdivide their Park County, Colorado land. After that, Hick and his team went to a government approved 501 (c)(3) charity, the Nature Conservancy, which authorized the designation of conservation easements on the Park County property. Gigantic charitable deductions for conservation easements are authorized by the federal and state governments.

Isn't it nice the way the government, at every level, facilitated the enrichment of Mayor Hickenlooper? But there is a fly in this ointment. The IRS had the audacity to question an appraisal and Hick had to kick back $52,000. Damn the government and its extortionate interference. Multi-millions in profit got slightly diminished.

Sagacious Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll deliciously detailed Hick's prickliness at this out of control governmental (IRS) interference with his private property rights:

If I'd closed my eyes, I might have confused John Hickenlooper with an IRS-baiting tax protester who had somehow slipped into a Denver Post editorial board meeting this week.

"The IRS -- call it clever, call it however you like. A lot of people hate our government because of these tactics," Hickenlooper declared. "They made a calculation of how much can we ask for so that the legal costs of battling it would be roughly equal to what they're fighting over.

"The minimum cost to go to tax court is $60,000. What a coincidence! This is $52,000 [the amount the IRS demanded Hickenlooper pay for allegedly overvaluing conservation easements on land he owns in Park County]. Do you think that's just an accidental coincidence? . . . Sure, probably just an accident."

And when the mayor wasn't directing sarcasm at the IRS, he was by turns bracing ("Why are we having this discussion?") or indignant ("This is the most straightforward real estate deal I think I've ever been involved in"), or disdainful of news coverage ("We have been schooled so thoroughly by our friends in the media").

Teflon John's condemnation of government over this conservation easement situation may now compete as a new definition of chutzpah.

The gifted Denver Post writer Mike Littwin wrote that this whole conservation easement story is a big nothing and to prove it, he wrote an entire column about it. It is another talk radio invention, Littwin argued. Talk radio can't be trusted, Littwin implies, not for the first time. I expect Littwin's favored candidate, Mayor Hickenlooper, would say "ditto."

Mayor Hick famously stopped coming on our Caplis and Silverman talk radio show after his interview on April 27, 2010. Until then, he had been a regular. On that day, we had the audacity to follow up on a Denver Post story setting forth the huge amount of Hick's charitable giving but without specifics.

On the radio, I asked Hick that day about the Chinook Fund and he at first seemed to have trouble even remembering the name of the charity. Then I told him that I knew he founded the Chinook Fund Charity, and I presumed he still supported it financially. Hick he said okay, and then "what more do you need to know?"

On April 27, Mayor Hickenlooper told our listeners that he could not tell specifics because the charities had asked him for confidentiality - and that several charities did not want their causes to become politicized. Now, thanks to excellent investigation by award winners Tony Kovaleski and Art Kane (KMGH, Channel 7), we know that well over a million dollars of the Mayor's huge charitable write offs came via conservation easements. Isn't that a state program that should be the opposite of private?

What charity would demand confidentiality from Hick? Long the most popular politician in Colorado, why would any charity have asked in past years to keep Hick's support quiet? A church? The Nature Conservancy? Numbers USA?

During their KBDI Channel 12 gubernatorial debate, Hick again declined to release the details of his philanthropic giving, stating that such revelations would be akin to asking for his reading list of books. Philanthropists are a little different, don't you know?

Could it be that the Mayor misspoke or misunderstood? Is it like his claim the other day that Frontier Airlines did not take hundreds of jobs from Denver to Milwaukee because of Denver's high taxes?

Our Caplis & Silverman Show has explored the correct answer to this question too. Brian Bedford, the new owner of Frontier Airlines as CEO of Republic Airlines, told us unequivocally that it was Denver's high taxes that made these jobs fly from the Mile High City. We will play that sound again on this week's shows.

In his column, Mike Littwin mentioned my access to Tom Tancredo's taxes, which is correct. If you were listening to our radio show, you would have already heard these highlights: Tom and Jackie Tancredo's total income in 2008 and 2009 was several hundred thousand dollars.

The primary source of money appears to be from a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit, Numbers USA, through an entity called TFC, LLC. The Tancredos had to pay an IRS penalty in 2009 for taxes missed in 2008 (Tanc told us that he had inadvertently missed a quarterly payment). Every year, the Tancredos contribute well over $3,000 to their church, and they have received huge deductions for donated property contributions to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and Step 13. More details to follow on our show.

Tom Tancredo originally gave his taxes to his pal, legendary KHOW radio talk show host, Peter Boyles. Tanc then said that Dan Caplis and I could see the documents as well. Gutsy move since I am not an endorser of Tancredo nor have I ever voted for anyone as socially conservative as Tancredo or Maes. (In fairness, Tom Tancredo has some remarkably libertarian positions as well.)

Smart money says I'll end up voting for Hickenlooper in November and if I do, so will lots of others, and he will become Governor. But as the Denver Post has editorialized, Hick needs to be tested. We have entertaining tests every weekday on Denver's talk station, 630 KHOW.