Bankruptcy documents detail how GOP NC governor nominee Mark Robinson failed to file federal income taxes for five years

Mark Robinson, lieutenant governor of North Carolina, speaks during a “Get Out The Vote” rally with former U.S. President Donald Trump in Greensboro, North Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has been open about some of his past financial challenges, including nonpayment of debts and failure to pay rents.

He’s also, throughout his political rise, railed against the social safety net and disparaged those who have relied on government assistance, while on his way to clinching the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the state.

And while Robinson has previously talked about his financial issues, bankruptcy records obtained by ABC News paint a more dire and detailed picture of his financial and business history than has previously been disclosed — including new details regarding how the potential future governor had failed to file his federal income taxes for five consecutive years starting in 1998.

In his 2022 autobiography We Are The Majority, Robinson wrote that his wife decided to open a daycare center in 2000 and that “by God’s grace, it became extremely successful.” Robinson was “blessed to start, run, and sell a successful small business with his wife,” according to the lieutenant governor’s office website.

As the daycare grew, according to the book, Robinson would go on to leave his job working at an aviation company and stop taking college classes, in order to work on the surging business full-time. 

“Soon she was no longer able to operate the business out of our home and moved to a freestanding building,” Robinson wrote of his wife.

In the book, Robinson, who became North Carolina’s first Black lieutenant governor in 2020, described the business as “running well” and said that “we paid our bills on time,” while also noting it was a “tough business to keep afloat.” The book, however, fails to mention Robinson filing for bankruptcy a few years after opening the daycare.

‘Precious Beginnings’

According to the United States Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of North Carolina, Mark and Yolanda Robinson, doing business as Precious Beginnings, filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy on Jan. 8, 2003. Robinson had previously filed for bankruptcy on two other occasions in 1998 and 1999.

In seeking bankruptcy protection, the Robinson family described a series of grave economic circumstances. According to their 2003 filing, the family faced the repossession of two vehicles and the impending foreclosure of their Greensboro home. The records also show that, at the time, Robinson had just $70 to his name — $40 in cash and $30 in savings — as well as $4,720 in personal property. They also reported debts surpassing $1 million, including $290,525 in unsecured debts and $871,550 in secured debts.

Robinson, according to the documents, had also failed to file income taxes for five years. After filing for bankruptcy in 2003, the Internal Revenue Service filed a motion for the Bankruptcy Court to compel Robinson to file taxes for the years 1998-2002.

“The United States of America, by its counsel, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, respectfully moves the Bankruptcy Court for an order compelling debtor Mark Keith Robinson to furnish to the Internal Revenue Service individual income tax returns for the taxable years 1998, 1999, 2000, 20001, and 2002 or, in the alternative, for an order dismissing this case with prejudice,” the motion reads. “Due to Mr. Robinson’s failure to file federal individual income tax returns for those years, the Internal Revenue Service is unable to file an accurate proof of claim and to determine whether he is remaining current with respect to unpaid taxes.”

Robinson ultimately filed his back taxes in May 2003.

In October 2003, the Robinsons lost their Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection due to the “failure of the debtors to comply with the requirements of the plan,” according to the records.

In a statement to ABC News, Robinson’s campaign communications director Mike Lonergan said, “This is old news recycled by the Democrats and their allies in the press to distract the voters.”

“Lt. Governor Robinson has made no secret about the financial challenges in his past,” the statement said. “As a former factory worker who lost his job due to NAFTA and had his home foreclosed and was even forced into bankruptcy, the Lt. Governor has overcome many challenges — financial and others — in his past. He’s lived the struggles that families across North Carolina are facing every day. North Carolinians are ready for a governor who will be focused on solutions to their problems — not another career politician climbing the ladder from office to office.”

Robinson has previously faced questions about his taxes. When he was confronted in 2022 about having hundreds of dollars in delinquent Guilford County vehicle tax bills, Robinson initially suggested that his wife handled their taxes, according to WRAL-TV News in Raleigh.

“When you start talking about taxes, if I’m the guy doing them, somebody’s going to jail,” Robinson said. “I’m not very good at math.”

Robinson ultimately said in a statement to WRAL News that he was unaware of the vehicle taxes owed and that he “paid them immediately.”

‘The death in this country of responsibility’

In his book, Robinson described some of his family’s early financial challenges, including how their first home was foreclosed on.

“We failed in some ways. That’s the house that we lost, that was repossessed,” he wrote. “After that, it seemed like we got shoved into the wilderness. We had been wasting money and time. I wasted a lot of time. We learned more during the period after we lost the house than when we were in the house. We had a better time in the house. But we learned more after.”

He wrote that everybody in politics has made mistakes of some sort.

“So many people are discouraged from running for office because they have made mistakes in their lives. They have declared bankruptcy. They have cheated on their spouse. They were in jail one time. They used to do drugs or drink,” Robinson wrote. “I’ve been looking for people who have made no mistakes. I haven’t found any. Truth be told, when you go to Washington, D.C., you will find people who have done even worse.”

Yet despite relying on protection from the bankruptcy courts during his early days of financial troubles, Robinson’s political rise has coincided with his railing against the social safety net while calling on citizens to take responsibility for their financial situation.

“The war on poverty was started and waged to win votes. It was a pandering ploy by the Democratic Party to gain the votes of poor people,” Robinson said on the Anomic Age Podcast in 2019. “The very first person you should look to to take care of yourself should be you, and it’s caused, really, the death in this country of responsibility.”

“We don’t have a charity problem in this country. There are plenty of places where charity is available,” he said. “The problem is we have people that have been abusing the system for far too long. And too many of these social programs have degraded our work ethic.”

“If you’re not responsible with your finances, you don’t pay your bills on time, you’re not going to be able to have the freedom to do things other folks do. You won’t have the freedom to be able to buy the kind of house you want, or car you want to buy. If you’re not responsible when it comes to law and order, you’re going to eventually lose your freedom,” Robinson said. “And you see in everything that these Democrats now are pushing, they’re taking the responsibility out of it.”

In Facebook posts in 2020, as Democrats were pushing for student loan forgiveness plans, Robinson railed against the idea, writing, “So since we’re talking about canceling ‘student debt’ I’ve got some ‘parent debt’ to cancel too. You know, stuff like a mortgage and auto loans.”

‘Better than Martin Luther King’

Robinson exploded onto the political scene thanks to a viral 2018 pro-gun rights speech he gave following the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. But he has faced widespread criticism over past comments.

CNN previously reported that Robinson had mocked and attacked the teenage survivors of the Parkland shooting, including by writing on Facebook that the students were “spoiled, angry, know it all CHILDREN” and “media prosti-tots.”

The Republican gubernatorial nominee has also faced criticism from members of his own party, including North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who endorsed Robinson’s opponent in the gubernatorial primary.

“Mark Robinson’s a good enough guy … but he has virtually no legislative experience, very little business experience,” Tillis said.

Robinson, however, has received a glowing endorsement from former President Donald Trump, who has described Robinson as “Martin Luther King on steroids.”

“I think you’re better than Martin Luther King. I think you are Martin Luther King times two,” Trump said while endorsing Robinson last month.

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