Wealthy Democratic Candidate Ends His Flirtation With a National Sales Tax

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 10 2014 3:09 PM

Wealthy Democratic Candidate Ends His Flirtation With a National Sales Tax

When Rep. Jim Moran announced that he'd be retiring from Congress this year, he created a rare and precious thing—a race for a safe Democratic seat in Virginia. The 8th District, which Moran had represented (in some form) since 1990, currently encompasses the city of Alexandria and the deep-blue counties that hug the District of Columbia. In 2012 Barack Obama won the district by 37 points, running ahead of Moran, who won by a paltry ... 34 points.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary, then, is going to be in Congress next year. That's why everyone with ambition has piled into the race, and why the candidacy of Don Beyer worries some progressives.

Beyer, who turns 64 this year, was lieutenant governor of the state before it became deep red. He's made millions from Volvo dealerships in the state, and can theoretically bludgeon his competitors.

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But should a safe Democratic seat go to a business-friendly Democrat? Over the weekend, one activist forwarded me this article about a 2005 event for the American International Automobile Dealers Association. The guest speaker was Tom DeLay—yeah, that one—who was friendly to the IAAA's support for estate tax repeal and suggested that the entire tax code could be replaced by a national sales tax. Reporter Harry Stoffer talked to Beyer afterward.

[People] would not be paying income tax under a DeLay-style plan. Unexpectedly, the concept was endorsed quickly by Don Beyer, an activist Democrat and Subaru-Land Rover-Volvo dealer in northern Virginia.
"It makes eminent sense as public policy," said Beyer, who is scheduled to be AIADA chairman in 2007. He said it would improve capital formation because wealthy individuals and businesses would have more money to invest in new ventures.

Nine years later, what does Beyer think?

"We're not sure about the context, but Don never supported replacing the progressive income tax with a national sales tax, and he never will," said Ann O'Hanlon, speaking on behalf of the Beyer campaign. "Don believes that the middle class and working families already bear too much of the burden. He supported Obama's rollback of Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and in Congress would work to eliminate loopholes that allow the wealthy to pay a lower effective tax rate than many middle class families."

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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