GOP Senate candidate James releases tax returns, others now follow

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on January 26, 2012 at 8:31 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 26 at 10:20 PM

DALLAS - Wealth, income and tax fairness and transparency have become issues in the Republican presidential campaign, and they're nudging their way into the campaign for U.S. Senate in Texas.

Here's how the most prominent Republicans in the race stack up in net worth: Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, more than $200 million. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert has at least $12 million. Former Solicitor General Ted Cruz has at least $918,000. Craig James hasn't reported his net worth, but says he will, as required by law.

However, Thursday James released his tax returns for the past five years, something the others haven't done yet.

Former ESPN football analyst and SMU star James was the last candidate to join the race, but he's the first to release his tax returns.

"But I have opted to step into this arena of public service, and so therefore it's important for me to open up, so people get a chance to know all they can about me," James said at a Dallas news conference.

James' 2010 married filing jointly return shows adjusted gross income of more than $256,000 that includes his $113,000 dollar ESPN salary. His ESPN salary hit a high of $315,000 over the five years in 2008.

Other income comes from ranching and real estate. James' federal effective tax rate was nine percent in 2010.

James disclosure forced the other candidates to quickly follow.

The campaign of Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said he'll release 2009 and 2010 returns and a 2011 summary Friday.

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert's campaign said he will in the days ahead. And former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz said he will, too, if Leppert and Dewhurst do.

James said what others did would be up to them, but he "hope[s] the other candidates will follow suit." and he "think[s] they should."

But tax returns can cause headaches for candidates.

James earned between one-and-four million dollars a year over 2006 to 2009. His five years combined income is $9.3 million.

But his returns showed just 1 percent in charitable giving.

A tough question now for a candidate who speaks of his religious faith a lot.

"My charitable giving is nowhere near what it should be. [Am I] embarrassed about that? Probably not," James said. "There are a lot of things that I do that don't fall into the charitable contributions category. I have given to my church, but it's not a good number. But it is what it is."

James hopes what voters like is his transparency.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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