Joe and Barack's Tax Problems.

I was stunned to see some document showing Joe the Plumbers' tax problems on my 10pm (CT)newscast on the local NBC affiliate in Chicago on Thursday night. They have very little time for any national news and they actually spent time on Joe the Plumbers' tax problems. Amazing!

But when an actual candidate — Barack Obama — released his tax returns, which on their face seemed to show an ethics violation of Illinois law, the press couldn't care less.

Just to remind you, Illinois prohibits state legislators from taking speaking fees, and Barack reported "speaking fees.":

Apparently, as an Illinois state legislator through 2004, Barack was prohibited from taking honoraria for speaking under the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act.

But what about Barack Obama’s 2000 and 2002 tax returns?

2000: On his 2000 Schedule C-EZ, Barack reported that he received $16,500 as a “Foundation director/Educational speaker.”

2001: On his 2001 Schedule C-EZ, Barack reported $98,158 from a Chicago law firm, Miner, Barnhill, for “Legal services/attorney” (and nothing for speaking).

2002: On his 2002 Schedule C, Barack reported $34,491 for “LEGAL SERVCES / SPEAKING FEES.”

These “speaking fees” are in addition to the amounts that Barack was paid as an employee, a lecturer at the University of Chicago, reported on the first page of his 1040s.

The Illinois Governmental Ethics Act (apparently last changed in 1995) provides:

(5 ILCS 420/2-110)

Sec. 2-110. Honoraria.

(a) No member of the General Assembly shall accept any honorarium.

(b) As used in this Section:

"Honorarium" means a payment of money to a member of the General Assembly for an appearance or speech . . . .

I really don't blame Obama for not addressing this; he released his tax returns after all. The problem is the press, which seems to be having more trouble than usual doing its job this season.

As I've said before, the best solution to the problem is integrating the newsrooms politically.