Ducking the Tough Issues

Questions over finances dog House candidate, former Obama official Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth / Wikimedia Commons
September 4, 2012

This evening will not be the first time that Tammy Duckworth, former assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs under President Obama, addresses a Democratic National Convention.

Duckworth, who is running against incumbent Republican Joe Walsh in Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District, is an Iraq war veteran who was one of the few Democrats to lose in the 2006 wave election. (At that time she ran to represent Illinois’ Sixth District.)

After the 2006 election, Illinois' then-governor Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who is now in prison, appointed Duckworth to the state Department of Veterans Affairs. She remained active in politics, which led to an appearance at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. President Obama appointed her to the assistant secretary position early in his term. She resigned her post in the summer of 2011 to run for Congress.

Duckworth, who owns a private plane, has faced questions over her personal finances throughout her career. She improperly used state money to attend a 2008 campaign event for congressional candidate Dan Seals, violating Illinois state law by driving there in a state-owned van. She apologized and repaid the state for the inappropriate use of the vehicle.

NBC Chicago reported last month that Duckworth had improperly claimed homeowner exemptions on her taxes from 2007 to 2010. The NBC affiliate cited a local newspaper that had the scoop:

The Democrat claimed homestead exemptions in both DeKalb County and Cook County, where she now lives. The newspaper cites county and federal records. Illinois law allows residents to claim the exemption on their primary residence to reduce the amount of property taxes owed.

Duckworth saved close to $2,000 by double dipping on her exemptions, according to the report.

The congressional candidate’s response: She had unknowingly claimed the two exemptions.

Illinois law allows a homeowner to claim an exemption on his primary residence. Duckworth and her husband own two homes, one in DeKalb County, and the other in Cook County. The DeKalb County exemption automatically renews unless the homeowner informs the assessor’s office that his address has changed. This was something the Duckworths apparently did not do after they moved their primary residence to Cook County in 2002. The Daily Herald reports:

Duckworth has sent a check to DeKalb County to cover what she would have paid without the exemption, plus an added $612 in late fees, Sullivan said. …

Walsh’s campaign Wednesday cut at the amount of time Duckworth spent in Washington, D.C., as assistant secretary of veterans affairs, with spokesman Justin Roth calling it, ‘conceivable that she probably just forgot which one of her Illinois homes she was pretending to live in.’

In May of this year Duckworth filed two Certificates of Error with the Cook County Assessor’s office to lower her property bill, according to public records. A staff member at the assessor’s office told the Free Beacon that Duckworth should expect a refund check for several hundred dollars for 2009 and 2010.

A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey commissioned by the left-wing CREDO Super PAC in August found Congressman Walsh trailing Duckworth by nine points.