From 1999 through 2001, state Senate President David Williams reported, for tax purposes, gambling losses of $36,147. That much the public knows from documents filed in his divorce case in 2003.
Since gambling losses can only be claimed on tax returns to offset gambling winnings reported on those same returns, by inference the public also knows Williams had at least $36,147 in winnings during the same period.
What the public doesn't know, and probably never will, is whether the $36,147 represents the total of his losses or the total of his winnings during the three-year period.
He could have won thousands more but didn't have comparable losses to offset them. Or he could have lost thousands more, but didn't have the winnings to offset them.
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But what is known — that Williams reported winnings and losses totaling more than $72,000 over the course of three years — is sufficient for the public to recognize the disingenuousness of his claim: "I don't think that makes me a big gambler."
Maybe winning/losing an average of least $24,000 a year doesn't put you on a par with the high rollers whose faces have been made famous by all those televised poker tournaments, but it sure moves you several levels above spending a few hours at the $1 slot machines or the $10 blackjack tables.
What the public does know also makes it incumbent for Williams, who's seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, to release his tax returns, at least for the period since 2001.
Williams told The Courier-Journal last week he would not release his returns. Fellow Republican candidate Phil Moffett said he would not release his either.
Both should reconsider and follow the lead of incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear and the third Republican gubernatorial candidate, Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw, in agreeing to share this information with voters.
For Williams, the argument for doing so is particularly strong precisely because of his gambling habits.
Voters have a right to know how much he's reported as gambling winnings and losses in the years since 2001. Tax returns containing those numbers will better equip voters to evaluate Williams' claim that, although he regularly frequented casinos in the past, he stopped doing so several years go.
Right now, all voters have to go on is the word of a man who disingenuously argues winnings and/or losses totaling an average of at least $24,000 a year don't make him "a big gambler" — an argument that, frankly, calls his credibility into serious question.