Republican U.S. Rep. James Comer reignited an old political rivalry this week by publicly releasing his personal income tax returns and questioning why Gov. Matt Bevin has not done the same.
Comer was one of six members of Congress to release his tax returns as part of a story published Monday in Roll Call, a Washington-based publication. Comer told Roll Call he believes that when someone "files for the highest public offices" that the public has a right to know how much money they make and where it comes from.
Comer said he offered to release his tax returns in 2015 when he ran for governor "against two wealthy opponents." That was a clear reference to Bevin and Hal Heiner, who both ran largely self-funded campaigns during the 2015 Republican primary for governor.
That 2015 primary ended up being the closest statewide election in history, with Bevin squeaking out a win by 83 votes over Comer in the four-person race. Comer would go on to be elected from Kentucky's 1st Congressional District in 2016.
Bevin has refused to release his tax returns. When asked about that, Comer told The Associated Press in a text message: "Well, he sat right beside me in a gubernatorial debate and promised to disclose his taxes. That was 2 years ago!"
In an interview, Bevin said Comer was likely still "licking his wounds" from the 2015 election. He said he never promised to release his tax returns, calling it "a complete fabrication of the media."
"I'm going to do that. It's not required by law and it's not going to be done. You can bring it up from now until the cows come home. I'm never going to," Bevin said.
Comer said Bevin made that promise "several times" during the campaign. He forwarded The Associated Press video from a 2015 interview Bevin gave with CN2, now known as Spectrum News. When asked about releasing his taxes, Bevin says: "When I'm governor, sure. I mean, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." A spokeswoman for Bevin said the video is "in no way, shape or form a promise."
Comer's tax returns show he claimed income of $57,261 in 2016, which included a capital gain of $112,564 and losses of $73,900 and $15,533. Comer told Roll Call his income came from buying and flipping farm properties. He got a federal refund of $4,779.
As governor, Bevin is required to file an annual "statement of financial disclosure." It shows Bevin has an interest in 10 different companies and lists properties that he owns, but does not say how much money he earned.
While bitter rivals on the campaign trial, Comer and Bevin made up during the Fancy Farm political picnic in 2015, where Comer called Bevin a "good man and a good leader." Bevin said Tuesday he still has a good relationship with Comer.
"I supported him when he ran for the House, I encouraged people to support him. He didn't have huge difficulty in getting that seat," Bevin said. "I think he's doing a good job. He's entitled to his opinion."