Republican congressional candidate and Batavia resident David Bellavia made his tax returns available today for review by journalists and he's calling on his primary opponent, Chris Collins, to do the same.
"This is part of our narrative of being completely transparent," Bellavia said. "If you're going to ask for somebody for a vote, you've got to earn their trust."
On Friday, the Buffalo News ran a story about Bellavia falling behind falling behind on some tax payments and city fees (with all payments being current now), but Bellavia said the decision to release his tax returns is coincidental.
"We always planned on releasing the returns, but (that story) may have pushed it up a week," Bellavia said.
Collins is a businessman who is reportedly wealthy. His press agent, Michael Kracker, has not yet responded to a phone message, nor has the Collins campaign responded to a message on Twitter asking if he will release his returns.
Bellavia betrayed a little frustration with the focus on his finances while Collins, he thinks, has ducked any substantial discussion of issues important to the district.
"When I decided to run for the seat, some Republicans pulled me aside as said I needed to be careful as a Republican not to make the campaign about class warfare. They said Collins is not a bad guy just because he has a lot of money and I agree with that, but now the class warfare is pointed at me. Just as he shouldn't be disqualified for this race because he's wealthy, I shouldn't be because I'm not."
And Bellavia isn't.
While he and his wife, Rochester TV reporter Deanna King, own a house in Ward 1 assessed at $209,000, the family income has only once exceeded $100,000 (in 2007), and in 2009 the Bellavias' gross adjusted income dropped to $29,719. In each of the other three years of tax returns provided by the Bellavia campaign the family income never exceeded $70,000.
In 2007, the Bellavias owed more than $10,000 in taxes at the end of the year, but in each of the other four years the family received refunds.
Bellavia's primary income, according to the returns, comes as an author, and that income has fluctuated widely over the years -- in excess of $100,000 in 2007 (when the family's gross income was nearly $114,000) and as low as $2,400 in 2010).
In 2007, a book Bellavia co-wrote, "House to House: An Epic Memoir of War" was released. Bellavia has said he also co-wrote and sold the screenplay for the movie "Tie That Binds."
In 2009, Bellavia took time off from writing and speaking to help start and run a nonprofit group for returning veterans called the Warrior Legacy Foundation.
On Friday, Bellevia told the Buffalo News he is "no country club Republican," and he repeated the phrase today.
"It was a fair story," Bellavia said. "It's a story. I'm running for congress and there has got to be transparency, but at the end of the day, it clears the narrative that I'm not a country club Republican.
"You can't elect a person to congress whom it doesn't bother to put $4.05 in their tank," Bellavia added. "It hurts me every day."
Bellavia has repeatedly asked the well-financed Collins to meet in a debate and Bellavia said the lack of substance will hurt either Republican candidate, which ever one wins the primary, when it comes time to face Kathy Hochul in the general election.
"Hochul is a very gifted, talented and competent politician," Bellavia said. "She knows the issues. I disagree with her on the issues, but we can't just wait until after the primary to find out where a candidate stands on the issues, but that's exactly what he (Collins) told the Buffalo News."