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Bellavia turns financial disclosure into prodding of Collins

David Bellavia is no Chris Collins, at least in terms of his personal wealth -- which, in Bellavia's case, is minimal.

Bellavia this week released the personal financial disclosure statement he is required to file for his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Congress in New York's 27th district.

And the document shows the Iraq War hero with family income so far this year of no more than $11,820, along with a credit card debt somewhere between $15,001 and $50,000. In addition, Bellavia listed his assets as "indefinite."

That stands in sharp contrast to Collins. The longtime businessman and former Erie County executive reported projected 2012 income between $345,000 and $3.15 million and investment assets ranging between $25 million and $112 million when he released his financial disclosure form several weeks ago.

"I'm just like the average American," Bellavia said. "I'm a working class guy that has credit card debt and a mortgage."

The release of the document spelling out Bellavia's personal finances opened another round of sniping between the campaign rivals, who are competing in a June 26 primary for the right to challenge Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, in November.

Collins did not question his rival's finances, but Bellavia once again lambasted his millionaire opponent for refusing to release his tax returns, as Bellavia has already done.

Bellavia's financial disclosure statement goes beyond the tax returns in providing a more up-to-date look at the candidate's finances.

It showed that he continues to rely on royalties from his best-selling book, "House to House: An Epic Memoir of War," but that money is now declining. He received royalties of between $1,001 and $2,500 for the book as of May 13 of this year.

"Royalties fluctuate," Bellavia said.

Bellavia recently sold the film rights to the book, meaning he could soon see his income increase dramatically. But so far this year, his family's main source of income has been his wife's salary. His wife, Deanna King, earned $6,320 in her part-time job as a television journalist in Rochester.

For his part, Bellavia has not been employed since he left his job as director of communications at Steuben Foods last year. He earned $39,831 in that post, which he held for about a year.

He said campaigning -- first in a special election for the seat Hochul eventually won and now for the right to challenge Hochul in November -- precluded him from full-time employment for the time being.

"I'm volunteering to retake this congressional seat for the Republican Party," he explained.

Bellavia's tax returns show him earning an average of about $65,000 annually since 2006, but he acknowledged he's experienced the same sort of ups and downs of many middle-class voters.

Still, he said there's nothing unusual about his credit card debt, which he has been amassing since January 2008.

"Some people have a lot of credit cards and a lot of debt," he said. "I have one."

Bellavia also said questions about personal finances should be directed at Collins, who has refused to release his personal tax returns.

"What tax rate did he pay?" Bellavia asked. "If Mitt Romney can stand the scrutiny of releasing his tax returns, so can Chris Collins."

For his part, though, Collins said he would not release his tax records because they would show how much he's earning from various business partnerships, meaning the release would also make public his partners' income.

More importantly, he said, his income would reveal how much money his companies are making -- and, therefore, provide important information to his competitors.

Collins recently told a campaign audience that his combined tax rate -- including all federal, state and local taxes -- was 44 percent.

In an interview, he said he paid a 31 percent federal tax rate in 2011.

And when asked about Bellavia's call for the release of his tax returns, Collins said: "David is not a business person I am certainly disappointed he has taken this negative turn."