Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin touts fiscal discipline, but he and his real estate company were late paying taxes dozens of times.
A review of property tax records in the Maine communities of Oakland, Phippsburg, Georgetown and Bath indicates the freshman lawmaker from Oakland was assessed interest 31 times for tardy payments in the last 10 years for properties he owned outright, owned with his parents or was developing through his real estate company.
Poliquin’s property tax payment histories were among those of all members of Maine’s congressional delegation, as well as Poliquin’s Democratic opponent, reviewed by The Associated Press this summer through public records requests and interviews with town tax officials.
Poliquin’s track record was the worst, but he also controlled more property as a developer. He owned properties outright or through joint ownership with his parents; he held a stake in others through a real estate development company, Dirigo Holdings LLC.
The land included an oceanfront development, Popham Woods Condominiums in Phippsburg; the members-only Popham Beach Club; and a former sardine factory site he’d hoped to redevelop in Bath.
There were four late payments since he won election to Congress in November 2014.
This election year, Democrats aim to make gains in the House, cutting into the Republicans’ commanding advantage. Poliquin’s seat in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is a top target after he won a hard-fought, three-way race in 2014.
The businessman and former state treasurer, who has touted himself as a “dependable voice for fiscal responsibility,” dismissed the late payments and interest penalties that added up to about $1,000 as the “cost of doing business” and attributed them to his thorough review of transactions.
“I have always ensured that all property taxes are paid in full — after a thorough review by myself and my business team,” Poliquin told the AP in a statement.
Poliquin expanded on his comments in a statement to the Morning Sentinel later Wednesday, stressing that all his taxes were paid in full and saying that for most Mainers, “property taxes are paid without a check even being cut or even a thought about the bill.”
“Maine people with home mortgages generally have these bills paid through an escrow process without even giving it a thought,” he said. “However, in the real estate business, property taxes are critical. These transactions include the need for thorough and complete reviews.”
The interest ranged from as little a penny to as much as $575, according to the analysis. Most of the payments were made within weeks; there was a single lien that was resolved for less than $20 in interest.
Poliquin, who serves on the Financial Services Committee, worked for a fund management company before getting into public service as Maine’s treasurer and then as a member of Congress. The millionaire has always touted his business background and fiscal conservatism in his political campaigns.
“Donors and others know I am a solid and dependable voice for fiscal responsibility, strong families and real job growth,” he said in his 2014 campaign.
The findings in property tax records on other Maine politicians:
• Sen. Angus King, an independent, has a primary residence in Brunswick, a ski condo at Sugarloaf, a summer retreat in Georgetown, Maine, and a home in Washington, D.C. According to records, King was assessed interest for being late three times on parcels in Georgetown and twice around the time he purchased his home in Washington.
King said the late payments “were the result of inadvertent errors, which were corrected and paid in full as soon as they were discovered.”
• There was no interest paid by Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, on property including a restaurant and lodge, along with two other properties, in North Haven. Interest was assessed to Pingree’s Republican opponent, Mark Holbrook, of Brunswick, for late payments in each year since 2008. Holbrook said that Brunswick’s taxes were high, and that he’s working to pay his bills.
• Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, had no late payments on current homes in Bangor and Washington, D.C., or her camp in Enfield.
• Poliquin’s Democratic opponent, Emily Cain, had no late payments in Orono for a lakeside property or the home she and her husband once owned. They recently sold that home and purchased a new one in March in Orono, according to records.
Poliquin lives in Oakland, where he moved before becoming the first Republican in 20 years to occupy the 2nd District seat after winning the 2014 election.
Before that, his primary residence was in Georgetown, near a Phippsburg housing development he was creating. Fourteen late payments were linked to property in Phippsburg in the past 10 years. Poliquin sold the Popham Beach Club last year and transferred his title as registered agent of Dirigo Holdings LLC in 2013.
Phippsburg was an early adopter of electronic payments and had electronic data going back to the 1990s. Setting the clock back to 1993, had Poliquin about 10 more late payments, the analysis found.