PORTLAND — Republican Chris Dudley, a former professional basketball player now running for governor in Oregon, acknowledges he allowed firefighters to burn his house in 2004 in a posh Portland suburb as part of a training exercise for the local fire department and took a $350,000 tax deduction for it.
Dudley’s campaign also says there was nothing wrong it.
“He’s allowed under the law to take a deduction, and he did everything by the books,” campaign manager Josh Ginsberg said Thursday in a statement. “It was legal, ethical and proper, and any suggestion otherwise is completely unfair to Chris Dudley.”
But Oregon Democrats are using the revelation — first reported this week by the Willamette Week newspaper — as ammunition against Dudley in his tight race against John Kitzhaber, a former governor.
“Dudley seems to have no problem using public resources for his own gain while finding creative ways to get out of paying for them,” said Democratic Party of Oregon spokeswoman Amy Wojcicki in a statement.
The Internal Revenue Service would not comment on whether it would investigate.
It’s the second time in the gubernatorial campaign that Dudley has become a political target over a house.
Dudley moved to Camas, Wash., in the 1990s, while playing for the NBA’s Porttland Trail Blazers, and has admitted he did so to avoid paying some Oregon taxes. Democrats have called for an Oregon Revenue Department investigation into whether Dudley cheated on his taxes by actually living in Oregon while claiming the Washington residence. Dudley did pay Oregon income taxes on his Trail Blazers’ salary.
The latest controversy involves a home in Lake Oswego, an affluent Portland suburb.
After retiring from the Trail Blazers, Dudley donated the 4,500-square-foot house to the Lake Oswego Fire Department to use in a live fire drill.
Dudley campaign spokesman Jake Suski said Dudley consulted with his accountants about taking a tax deduction, but didn’t check with the IRS. Suski said Dudley didn’t face an audit or inquiry from the IRS after he claimed the $350,000 write-off.
Ginsberg said the Lake Oswego Fire Department wrote a note of thanks to Dudley in which it said the drill helped firefighters train and was good for the community.
“Chris Dudley provided a qualified appraisal of the property,” Ginsberg said. “His property met the safety and environmental standards for qualification, and Chris paid for the removal of the debris following the training.”
Dudley replaced the burned house with one nearly twice as large, where he now lives.
Oregon Democrats claim the tax deduction amounts to tax evasion, and have suggested it could be tax fraud.