"The Huffington estate in Montecito is one of the most beautiful homes I've ever seen. It sits on ten acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara. As Michael was showing me the property, I told him there were two issues of business I wanted to address: the release of his tax information, and the need to repair the damage he'd done in his new hometown. Many longtime Republican activists were openly supporting (Senator Diane) Feinstein. I suggested he commit the money and organization for a major rehabilitation effort. He said he'd think about it.
"Then there were his tax returns. By refusing to release them, he was vulnerable to Feinstein's charge that he paid no taxes and had, in fact, avoided them by remaining a resident of Texas until he ran for Congress. He told me there was no way he'd ever release them and, in fact, he couldn't.
"He didn't explain why and I didn't ask, but as we walked across the estate he told me a story. Before he married Arianna, he didn't own a house. He lived in an apartment in Houston and was very happy. After the wedding they'd looked for over a year at more then a hundred homes around Los Angeles and purchased this one for over $4 million.
"'We spent another fortune redoing it,' he said. 'Then I get elected to Congress and Arianna needs a house in Washington, so we buy another one for five million. She spends another fortune redoing it.'
"'No one but my accountants and I know how much I am worth. The press has estimated it at seventy to seventy-five million dollars, based on my disclosure forms. That's way low, but it's fine if that's the figure they want to use. It's more like double that amount. If I disclose my taxes, Arianna will figure out how much I am worth and try to spend it all.'
"'Now I understood, and I almost felt something like sympathy for him. Not releasing his tax returns would become an explosive issue, but one that I never raised with him again."
Ed Rollins, Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms