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An intriguing e-mail landed in the inbox of Oregon PolitiFact. We couldn’t figure out who was circulating the message -- but it accused Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., of the unspeakable: a tax on everyday banking transactions.
The e-mail, forwarded Sept. 24 by a reader, claims that DeFazio wants to levy a 1 percent tax on every financial transaction, like depositing a Social Security check or cashing a paycheck. The letter claims his proposed legislation had the blessing of President Barack Obama’s "finance team" and that Democrats are waiting until after the Nov. 2 election to pass H.R. 4646. (DeFazio faces opposition from relative unknown Republican Art Robinson this fall.)
The e-mail repeats language from -- and links to a letter to the editor -- posted to the website of the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah. That letter reads, in part, regarding Obama::
"His plan is to sneak it in after the November election to keep it under the radar. This is a 1% tax on all transactions at any financial institution i. e. Banks, Credit Unions, etc. Any deposit you make, or move around within your account, i. e. transfer to, will have a 1% tax charged. If your pay check or your social Security or whatever is direct deposit, 1% tax charged. If you hand carry a check in to deposit, 1% tax charged, If you take cash in to deposit, 1% tax charged."
But the letter on the Standard-Examiner website made no mention of DeFazio. How curious. We decided to check it out. And we learned that H.R. 4646 is indeed actual legislation whose subject has something to do with taxation. But that’s where the similarities end.
The "Debt Free America Act" was introduced by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Penn, in February 2010. He proposed a 1 percent tax on all money transactions, "including cash transactions, checks, credit cards, those processed through the Federal Reserve Bank, and those collected at the point of sale." Fattah’s idea was to use the money to pay down the national debt, and eventually replace the income tax. He has proposed similar legislation since 2004.
H.R. 4646 had no support -- and certainly not from Obama’s "finance team" -- and is now dying a quiet death in committee. Yet the resolution continues to live online, where the DeFazio connection has been repeated by a former Hernando County (Fla.) commissioner.
DeFazio did introduce, along with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and other House Democrats legislation in December 2009 to assess a 0.25 percent tax on stock transactions. HR 4191 would not affect retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, education accounts or health savings accounts. And regular investors would not be affected because the first $100,000 traded each year would be exempt. The idea was to make Wall Street shoulder more of the costs borne by Main Street. The bill is in committee.
Penny Dodge, DeFazio’s chief of staff, says the congressman opposes H.R. 4646. An unamused DeFazio doesn’t know who is behind the e-mail attack.
"It’s slanderous," DeFazio said of the electronic claim. "I have nothing to do with the bill, no one pays any attention to the bill. It’s chronically introduced, and never received any attention before this."
He gets backup from Fattah, whose press secretary sent PolitiFact Oregon a statement:
"There have been many misleading and flat-wrong assertions about my bill, H.R. 4646, the Debt Free America Act. Congressman Peter DeFazio is not a cosponsor of H.R. 4646 and it is completely inaccurate to say he is a proponent of the Debt Free America Act.
The statement is not accurate -- and makes a ridiculous claim. We rate this Pants on Fire.
Hernando Today, Tampa Tribune publication, "Tax - no tax - tax," Sept. 1, 2010, (writer Len Tria said on Sept. 29 that he would attach a correction to his column after being contacted by PolitiFact Oregon)
Standard-Examiner, "One percent transaction tax," updated July 9, 2010
The Oregonian, "DeFazio calls for tax on financial transactions but critics abound," Dec. 3, 2009
Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Penn., America: A Debt Free Future, Feb. 23, 2010
Fattah, Transform America Transaction Fee, issues page
Interview with Penny Dodge, chief of staff to Peter DeFazio, Sept. 27, 2010
Interview with Peter DeFazio, Sept. 28, 2010
Statement from Rep. Chaka Fattah, Sept. 29, 2010
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