Idaho Lawmaker Is Tax Crusader To Some, Tax Dodger To Feds

Apr 16, 2012

Tax evasion will get you into hot water with the IRS. But in north Idaho, it won’t necessarily spell the end of your political career. A Republican state legislator who believes the federal income tax is unconstitutional is battling charges of tax evasion, even as he seeks re-election.

The federal government says Rep. Phil Hart (R-Hayden) owes more than half a million dollars in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties. The U.S. Justice Department is threatening to foreclose on his home near Athol, Idaho if he doesn’t pay up. Meanwhile, Idaho tax collectors say Hart owes the state another $53,000.

Rep. Hart has already been re-elected once since his tax troubles came out and he’s now running for a fifth term. Boise State University political science professor Gary Moncrief studies the Idaho legislature.  “Some of his positions resonate pretty well with the people in that district,” Moncrief says.

Hart is a Ron Paul supporter who this year tried to pass a bill to make gold and silver coins legal tender in the state of Idaho.

He faces three Republican challengers in next month’s primary. And there’s a viable Democratic candidate come the general election. Political analysts we talked to say this year Hart could have a run for his money because of the flurry of challengers and his mounting tax woes.