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Candidate: Bankruptcy shouldn't affect voter decision

Financial problems can spell trouble for a politician's career. Some are accused of stealing massive amounts of public funds, while others lie on bank applications or even declare personal bankruptcy because of bad decisions. A media outlet recently discovered that an at-large candidate for a Washington, D.C., council race has filed personal bankruptcy in the past. The man, who had experienced real estate problems when the housing bubble burst, assures voters that he will not mismanage their money; rather, he had an entrepreneurial venture go awry.

The man, John Settles, filed personal bankruptcy after claiming some $3.4 million in unpaid liabilities. Some of those debts included several years' worth of tax liens, according to local media reports. Financial problems have plagued local politicians in recent years, so voters need to be reassured that their representatives can handle finances. Settles said there is no danger of fund mismanagement if he is in charge. Rather, he admits that his bankruptcy resulted from a failed business venture instead of irresponsibility. After all, bankruptcy was designed as a cushion for entrepreneurs whose ventures are not wholly successful.

As for the tax liens, Settles reports that he has paid the IRS in full. The liens were the result of an IRS audit that uncovered some unpaid taxes related to capital gains. Since that time, the would-be politician has handed over the full amount to the government agency. He further notes that bankruptcy is a relatively common occurrence among real estate investors, especially when investments are made with personal funds.

In essence, Settles tells local reporters that the 2011 bankruptcy was a good financial decision that helped him get back on his feet. Entrepreneurship is a difficult process, and Settles said he has chosen to be candid about his personal bankruptcy issues. Unlike other politicians who had more nefarious motivation, Settles said he simply suffered from a poor business market that caused him financial hardship. He insists that he will still be an excellent political contributor to the city.

Source: Washington City Paper, "At-large candidate says bankruptcy won't hurt chances," Alan Suderman, Jan. 30, 2013.

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