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Braun Releases Tax Returns

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Carol Moseley Braun sat down for an in-depth interview with CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine. (CBS)

Carol Moseley Braun sat down for an in-depth interview with CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine. (CBS)

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Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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Updated: 1/4/11 – 10:03 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun paid $785 in federal income taxes on her $15,561 in adjusted income in 2009 and paid $2,509 in taxes in 2008 despite reporting an adjusted loss of $225,908, according to tax returns she released Tuesday.

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Braun did not release schedules or statements to itemize her gains and losses, but it appears her small business, Ambassador Organics, operated at a significant loss in 2009.

In 2008, Braun reported $55,000 in wages, $17,757 in business income, $4,842 in IRA distributions and $21,988 in pensions. But she also reported a loss of $120,614 from “Rental real estate, royalties, partnerships, corporations, trusts, etc.” and a “net operating loss” of $203,702.

In 2009, she reported no wages, but took $28,237 in pension and $5,558 in business income. At the same time, she reported $17,505 in losses from “Rental real estate, royalties, partnerships, corporations, trusts, etc.”

But the biggest surprise may be that Braun released them at all, after the way she responded to our questions yesterday.

Braun, a former U.S. senator and ambassador, initially said Monday that she would not release her tax returns until after the election, saying “I don’t want to.”

But later Monday – after coming under fire for refusing to do what the other major mayoral candidates already had done – she changed her mind and said she’d release her tax returns Tuesday afternoon.

Today’s change of heart included this apology:

“Yesterday, my remarks regarding the release of my tax returns sent the wrong message, and I regret the statement,” Braun said Tuesday in a written statement on her campaign website.

The other major candidates, former Chicago School Board president Gery Chico, City Clerk Miguel del Valle, and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, have all released their tax returns earlier in the campaign.

But unlike candidates Emanuel and Chico, who released five years of returns, Braun handed out just two, accompanied by the statement:

“The reality is that unlike Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Chico, who traded on their government relations for vast riches when they left office, I did not,” said Braun.

She’s actually got a point.

Emanuel reported more than a million dollars in income from investments over the last five years, which would indicate a nest egg of millions earned primarily in just four years between leaving the Clinton White House and being elected to Congress.

Gery Chico’s returns show he earned $6.7 million in just the last three years alone; much of it from legal fees for helping clients lobby City Hall and City Council.

Braun’s returns show in 2008, nearly $100,000 in income was offset by more than $300,000 in losses. The next year, her net income was just $16,000.

“After leaving public service, in 2005 I became an entrepreneur. I founded my small business, Ambassador Organics, not in a downtown office, but in a South Side neighborhood, guided by the same principles and values that I fought for in government,” said Braun.

Braun lives in a historic million dollar townhome in Hyde Park, which is now for sale.

She admits to not paying her property taxes for a couple of years because her struggling business needed the cash.

It’s been reported she has four mortgages against her home and an unpaid quarter million dollar personal loan from a cable TV executive.

Braun also said that her tax returns “are one measure of the fight I have waged to keep my business running. It is not unlike what many small business owners and regular Chicago families are going through. What keeps me going, what keeps us all going, is that great Chicago spirit, the can-do attitude that made us who were are.”

There’s no shame in losing money when you try to start a business in this economy, but had Braun not made a big deal about the tax returns, they may not have been as big a deal as they turned out to be.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine contributed to this report.

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