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Santorum is sort of rich

By Kay Bell · Bankrate.com
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Posted: 2 pm ET

The latest political game of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" continues, with Rick Santorum being the latest Republican candidate to reveal his tax returns.

Santorum, who's giving the ostensible GOP presidential nominee frontrunner Mitt Romney a real challenge in the approaching Michigan primary, released four years of federal income tax returns on Wednesday night.

We now know that while Santorum is nowhere near as wealthy as Romney (who is?) or the fading Newt Gingrich, the former Pennsylvania senator is not doing too badly.

In fact, since he lost his U.S. Senate seat, Santorum's personal wealth has grown, thanks in large part to his work as a Washington, D.C.-based corporate consultant and media commentator.

Santorum's annual income surged from nearly $660,000 in 2007 to $1.1 million in 2009 before dipping to $923,000 in 2010.

Will yet another wealthier candidate pose problems for the electorate? Probably not. By now every voter knows it's primarily rich people who run for office.

Santorum is already spinning madly to frame his beaucoup dollars as money he earned versus the dividend income pocketed by Romney.

And Santorum is quick to point out that he paid the Internal Revenue Service a combined tax rate of 28 percent over the four years covered by his tax returns. That puts him in one of the upper income tax brackets, but not at the top 35 percent level.

Gingrich paid an estimated 31 percent tax rate. Romney's tax rate was around 14 percent, primarily because so much of his income came via investments that are taxed at the lower capital gains rate.

What I really love about politics is how it often turns things on their heads. First Gingrich and now Santorum are pointing to their tax rates, which are double or more than what Romney paid, as tax badges of honor.

Really? I always thought the idea was to pay Uncle Sam as little as legally possible. To my mind, that makes Romney the winner here.

What do you think? Do a candidate's tax returns influence what you think about him or her?

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