Here's another snippet from my fact-check on claims that are being tossed about in the 21st Congressional District race. For the entire thing, click here.
Fliers from the state Democratic Party that have been hitting north country mailboxes question Republican Matt Doheny's business dealings. The two claims about Democratic Rep. Bill Owens' Nov. 6 opponent: He bought an island, and he worked for a tax-dodging finance firm, Fintech Advisory.
Each of the claims takes a shred of fact and distorts it until it's unrecognizable from its original meaning.
In one case, the facts are literally distorted, or at least the image is. “He bought this island and ran for Congress,” the flier claims above a photograph of a bird is shaded a tropical pink.
The animal appears to be a great blue heron that has been digitally altered. Great blue herons are native to the north country, but they don't look like that. The distortion leaves readers with the impression that Mr. Doheny bought a slice of tropical heaven.
But the island is actually part of the Thousand Islands, a region that gets quite cold in the winter.
“I own a place in Goose Bay, on the St. Lawrence River, in my hometown of Alexandria Bay,” Mr. Doheny said. “This is part of my opponent's tactics, to distort the truth, to lie, and to hide his own record.”
(A fact check within a fact check: It wasn't Mr. Owens who made the claim, but the state Democratic Party, which does support Mr. Owens.)
The fact that Fintech was based in the Caymans, and therefore could avoid United States corporate taxes, requires some context, too, Mr. Doheny says. A legal entity that was part of Fintech was based in the Caymans. But he wasn't involved in the decision to base it there; he also didn't benefit from it, he said, because he didn't have an ownership stake in the company. And he paid at or near 35 percent effective tax rate on his federal income taxes in each of the past five years, he told the Times several months ago.
He was based in New York state, including working out of an office on Washington Street in Watertown.
That won't be enough to placate some critics of offshore tax havens. Robert S. McIntyre, of the Citizens for Tax Justice, said that the primary reason that most companies are based overseas is to lower their tax liabilities and avoid U.S. taxes.
Mr. McIntyre argued that Mr. Doheny may have benefited from the company's offshore status.
“If the company was avoiding taxes and regulations, they might have been able to pay him more,” Mr. McIntyre said. “If he wasn't running the company — at some point, you might not want to work for a company that's based in the Cayman Islands.”
But Mr. Doheny argued that it's a dicey proposition to criticize companies that are based overseas at a time when officials — like Mr. Owens — are trying to get overseas companies to set up shop here.
“The criticism that people who work for entities and companies that are based overseas... it's flat out wrong, and it would hurt our district,” Mr. Doheny said, citing Bombardier, a Canadian-based company that is expanding in Plattsburgh, as an example.
Mr. Owens said he saw a difference between the two approaches.
“If a Canadian company invests money here to build a plant to expand their business, that is different than a U.S. company transferring money to the Caymans for the sole purpose of hiding it in the Caymans,” Mr. Owens said.