The U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke got personal this week when the incumbent attacked the challenger over a tax fraud case involving his mother.
An El Paso furniture store owned by Melissa O'Rourke was accused of accepting cash payments in order to avoid reporting to the IRS. The store pleaded guilty in 2010 and paid a fine.
Cruz talked Thursday in Washington with KERA – and pointed to O’Rourke’s stance on online sales taxes.
“He talked about the importance of collecting sales taxes and there was more than a little irony and even hypocrisy in that his family furniture store was convicted of a criminal offense of tax fraud – of defrauding sales taxes,” Cruz told KERA.
In a separate interview, O'Rourke said only the furniture store as a corporate entity was charged, not his mother.
“She was not found personally liable,” O’Rourke told KERA. “It was not alleged that she personally had any involvement in the mistake that that store made, but that was a serious mistake and it's fine for Sen. Cruz to bring that up.”
O’Rourke, a Democratic congressman from El Paso, said he has nothing to hide. He says Texas voters are interested in more pressing matters, like education and immigration.
Cruz, a Republican, was elected to the Senate in 2012.
KERA will air Krys Boyd's interviews with Cruz and O’Rourke at 1 p.m. Monday on “Think” on KERA 90.1 and streaming at KERA.org.
Excerpts of their remarks
Cruz on O’Rourke’s stance on online sales taxes:
“I don’t think we should be imposing taxes on the internet,” Cruz told KERA. “I think the internet has been an incredible haven for opportunity. So interestingly enough Congressman O’Rourke, in advocating for putting sales taxes on every transaction on the internet and hammering small online retailers, he talked about the importance of collecting sales taxes and there was more than a little irony and even hypocrisy in that his family furniture store was convicted of a criminal offense of tax fraud – of defrauding sales taxes. So he’s out there saying how important it is to collect sales taxes when his family furniture store had a criminal conviction on this matter."
O’Rourke on the case involving his mother’s furniture store:
“The facts underlying it are absolutely true,” O’Rourke told KERA. “The store that my mom owned and ran for her entire adult life, the store that her mother started in 1951 in El Paso that has employed hundreds of our fellow El Pasoans, broke the law. And, and there was a settlement in 2010. She was not found personally liable. It was not alleged that she personally had any involvement in the mistake that that store made, but that was a serious mistake and it’s fine for Senator Cruz to bring that up. And as I’m doing right now and I have all along, very happy to talk about it and answer questions about it. But what I find that the people that I’m meeting with and listening to across Texas want to talk about and want to hear about are things that are most important to their lives. The small business that they may own or are working at right now. The job that they’re looking for and can’t find. The higher education that’s unaffordable to them. The family that they’re separated from because our immigration laws don’t match our values and our experience.”