Gordon Sondland’s tax cheat

Gordon Sondland, the “Oregon” millionaire, advisor to Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski in the early 2000s and center-stage in current impeachment proceedings … is registered to vote in no-income-tax Washington state.

In 1988, Sondland bought the Benson Hotel in Portland. He owns a home in Oregon (which is where he raised his two kids with Katy Durant) and registers his cars in Oregon. He’s an active member of the Jewish community in Portland. He was chairman of the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film and Television, serving on the board for 13 years.

So the first time that I saw the claim that Sondland is registered to vote in Seattle, I thought it must be wrong.

But it’s not.

Sondland is indeed registered to vote in King County, Washington. And every one of those years his life revolved around Portland, he voted. In Washington.

Gordon D. Sondland’s Washington state voter registration record

Even though the Washington Secretary of State website notes that voters must register with a residential address, Sondand’s voter registration uses a commercial address, that of his Seattle property the Hotel Theodore (formerly The Roosevelt).

Sondland owns the Hotel Theodore in Seattle, WA

Most news stories present Sondland as being from Portland, because that’s where he owns a home and where he invests both time and money.

For more than a decade, Sondland’s home in Portland, Ore., had been a fundraising outpost for establishment Republicans, candidates he hoped would one day recognize his work corralling wealthy West Coast donors and reward him with a high-profile appointment — preferably, he told friends, an ambassadorship.

However, Sondland was born on Mercer Island, WA. In the 1980s, he apparently lived in greater Seattle.

Then married in Oregon. “Forever house” on the Oregon coast.

No residential address in Washington, but that (grandfathered) voter registration grants him a tax haven. Because unlike Washington, Oregon does have an income tax.

Here’s the escape clause that seems to have allowed Sondland to maintain his Washington state voter status long beyond any reasonable definition of “residency”:

If you move or are temporarily away, you may maintain your voter registration at that address until you register to vote elsewhere.

“Until you register to vote elsewhere.”

Although Sondland has clearly changed his address from a “residence” to a commercial property, he has not changed his state of record. And Washington’s Republican Secretary of State apparently could care less.

The residential address provided must identify the actual physical residence of the voter in Washington, as defined in RCW 29A.04.151…. “Residence” for the purpose of registering and voting means a person’s permanent address where he or she physically resides and maintains his or her abode.

For tax purposes, Washington state has an extraordinarily broad definition of “resident” that must make the state seem to be in league with Geneva.

Persons are considered residents of this state for sales and use tax purposes if they take actions which indicate that they intend to live in this state on more than a temporary or transient basis. A person may be considered a resident of this state even though the person is a resident of another state.

Intention? For 30 years, Sondland’s life has centered around Portland. When might the Department of Revenue think he intends to live in Washington in a non-transient manner?

One “proof” of residency for the Revenue Department is, you guessed it, being registered to vote in Washington. Because rationally, you vote in the state where you live and care about outcomes.

Profiles of Sondland emphasize his involvement with Oregon politics and community service. In addition to chairing a state board, Sondland served as a liaison between Oregon Governor Kulongoski and George W. Bush’s White House. Sondland’s parent company, Provenance Hotels, is headquartered in Portland.

Sondland has given generously to Oregon institutions, establishing himself as a major philanthropic player. He served on the boards of the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Health & Sciences University and has given major sums to other nonprofits like the Cascade AIDS Project and a homeless services group, New Avenues for Youth.

Washington community involvement is missing, save for his owning hotels in the Evergreen State.

Further evidence that Oregon is the man’s home (and where his heart and pocketbook reside):

Sondland later fought efforts to build a hotel at the Oregon Convention Center. The tussle spanned a decade and three lawsuits until Metro, the regional government, cut a deal with Sondland where he dropped his lawsuits in exchange for being given a high-value parking lot near the convention hall with rights to build anything he wants on it, including a competing hotel.

What do you think? Tax cheat or legitimate voter registration address?

Because this cannot be repeated too often, every story about Sondland should end this way:

Trump’s nominated Gordon Sondland to be an ambassador after Sondland donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee via four companies that he owns. The donations were traced to Sondland by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Digital media educator, writer, speaker; sometimes public policy journalist; transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles. #rabblerouser #pushy

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