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Ad accuses Doheny of using tax havens

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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Rep. William L. Owens continued to hammer on his Republican opponent's Wall Street connections Friday by accusing Matthew A. Doheny of using offshore tax havens to get rich — and helping to stick New Yorkers with an $8.4 billion tab.


But for the Plattsburgh Democrat to be right, he needs his audience to assume certain elements he can't conclusively prove.


Mr. Owens laid out the allegation in a 30-second television ad, "For Them," and a corresponding news release Friday.


It begins in June 2008, when Fimex International bought 36 million shares of troubled mortgage lender Countrywide. Fimex, which is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, is a subsidiary controlled by Fintech Advisory, where Mr. Doheny works as a portfolio manager.


Mr. Owens said he doesn't know Fimex's purchase price for the Countrywide shares, although the stock traded between $4.19 and $4.50 on the day Fimex purchased it. While Bank of America already had announced it would buy all shares of Countrywide stock at $4.99, Mr. Owens said he doesn't know at what price Fimex sold the Countrywide stock — making profit only an assumption.


Mr. Owens assumes the company sold its shares at Bank of America's asking price, which means Fimex's profit could have been between $17.9 million and $29.2 million.


While Fimex is based in the British Virgin Islands, where there are no corporate tax or capital gains taxes, Mr. Owens can't conclusively say the idea to keep funds there was his opponent's because he doesn't know when the subsidiary was started.


Finally, Mr. Owens can't prove Mr. Doheny had any role in the Countrywide acquisition. His duties at Fintech do include assessing whether a troubled company is worth investing in, so he does have an impact on his firm's stock purchases. But Alison M. Power, his spokeswoman, said last month the candidate will not say whether he worked on the acquisition because it is proprietary information.


"Bill Owens will say and do anything to get re-elected," Ms. Power said Friday. "Owens knows that Matt Doheny has a proud business record of saving thousands of jobs."


Mr. Owens said Mr. Doheny was "only looking out for himself and his friends on Wall Street who are raking in million-dollar bonuses and avoiding taxes with offshore loopholes, all while the middle class continues to struggle."


He said that according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, New York's taxpayers pay $8.43 billion a year to offset the revenue lost through offshore tax havens.


Mr. Owens also used his television advertisement to correct a misleading statement made by Mr. Doheny in a prior spot. Mr. Doheny said that "one vote could have stopped the biggest tax increase in American history — and that vote was Bill Owens."


The Republican is referring to Mr. Owens's vote to adjourn the House, which passed 210-209, although members had not addressed the Bush-era tax cuts expiring at year's end. The House leadership does plan to call members back for a post-election session in November, at which point the tax cuts may be discussed.

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