Dan Maes takes on Denver Post over tax returns, says paper doesn't understand small business

After what his critics characterize as a long delay, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes has released his tax returns -- and they show per annum income as low as $11,000 in recent years.

The data prompted the Denver Post, which has never been a big Maes backer, to editorialize against him, suggesting that he's overstated his biz knowledge and isn't qualified to be governor -- an assertion that gets Maes's dander up.

The return info, first provided to The Constitutionalist Today, a Tea Party-friendly site, is double-teamed in today's Post. In addition to the aforementioned editorial, a new piece asserts in its headline that "Maes's Claims, Income at Odds."

The implication: Maes's business skill, which he regularly mentions in the context of arguing why he should become Colorado's next chief executive, is clearly lacking, or else he'd have made more money since launching his Amaesing Credit Solutions business mid-decade.

"I haven't seen the articles," Maes says, "but I've never overplayed my business acumen. I've always been clear that I've run small and medium-sized businesses. Anyone who assumed there was anything more to that heard what they wanted to hear."

Regarding the thesis that his modest income mean he doesn't know very much about business, Maes says, "I think it's more they [the Post] who don't understand business acumen and the realities of starting up a small business -- and the reality that you take a very small amount of personal pay in the first three-to-five years of starting a business. These are financial realities, and it was no different for us."

Besides, he continues, "if you look at the revenue growth, you'll see we tripled revenue from the first year to the second year, and we doubled it again the next year. That's exactly the kind of acumen we need in the governor's office now -- someone who understands how to generate revenue in the business sector."

Does Maes believe that measuring success by the dollar unfairly compares mom-and-pop business owners to big-bucks CEOs?

"My response to that is, I've been in corporate America, and I've seen the guys who make the millions -- and talent often has little to do with it," he maintains. "What it has more to do with are political connections, friendships and padded résumés, in many cases.

"That's not to say all high-dollar people are unethical. But with my small business, I could have easily gone out and gotten angel money and investor money and expanded -- and I chose not to. I wanted to run my small business with my limited resources like 80 to 90 percent of other small businesspeople out there. We want the autonomy to run our businesses without looking over our shoulders and having people grinding us about our stock prices."

Small business owners like him "may make only $50,000 a year, or $100,000, or $150,000," he allows. "But that doesn't make us any less qualified than someone making more. Look at Michael Bennet's financial records. When he arrived in Colorado, his income level was $100,000 or less, if I remember correctly, and then, a year later, he's making $5 million for the Anschutz Corporation. And he wasn't any more talented the year he worked for Phil Anschutz than he was beforehand. That shows it's all about connections and relationships."

In regard to criticism about him waiting until now to put out his tax returns, he says, "it kind of humors me and frustrates me at the same time that people have arrived at this point in our society where they simply can't believe what they're told. No matter what we say, the prognosticators and the pundits try to read way too much into things. The reason I delayed was for the same reason it always was: My family had to reach a point where we were comfortable releasing information we feel is extremely private. And we will continue to have a very measured strategy of releasing personal information. We still have to get through a primary, after all."

He doubts the Post's negative editorial stance will be too damaging to his chances in that August vote, which finds him taking on embattled frontrunner Scott McInnis.

"A fair number of my supporters don't even subscribe to the Post and could care less about them," he says. "We don't get much push-back on the editorial side, although we find it very disappointing they've taken this tack. We encourage people to ignore what the media says, ignore what the machine says, and follow your principles."

This sort of talk appeals to the likes of auto dealer Phil Wolf, who replaced his controversial anti-Obama birther billboard with one promoting Maes. (By the way, Maes says President Obama "should absolutely produce the proper legal documentation" about his nation of birth, "if he hasn't already.") With that in mind, he's essentially putting the Post on notice.

"I'm very proud of the accessibility that I've supplied the media," he says. "But if the Denver Post continues along this path, it's possible this accessibility can be more restricted. That would be unfortunate, but they owe it to the voters to give a fair view, not just their view."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts