WASHINGTON -- A Republican congressman from Maryland is in a hairy situation over a proposal to give tax breaks to Americans with mustaches.
The American Mustache Institute claimed Tuesday that Rep. Roscoe Bartlett had lent his support to the `Stache Act, which calls for a tax deduction of up to $250 a year for facial hair grooming.
But Bartlett's office said he never supported the measure. Staffers said Wednesday that they only forwarded a copy of the proposal to the House Ways & Means Committee, without the congressman's knowledge, after receiving a media inquiry about it. That led the institute to believe Bartlett, who has long had a mustache, supported the measure.
"For the record: Roscoe is pro-stache, but he does not believe Americans should pay for people's personal grooming decisions," Bartlett's chief of staff, Deborah Burrell, said in a statement.
So far, no other representatives have supported the mustache proposal.
At least one of Bartlett's Republican primary opponents is criticizing him over the facial hair flap. The longtime incumbent faces several challengers in the 6th District, which was redrawn to include more Democratic voters.
The American Mustache Institute, meanwhile, issued a statement faulting Burrell for what it called a "shameful reversal."
"We are highly disappointed by their reversal based on the fact that the congressman's opponents in the race are jumping on the bandwagon to criticize him," chairman Aaron Perlut said. "They obviously don't understand what it is to be a mustached American."
The institute plans to send Burrell an autographed photo of Burt Reynolds as a goodwill gesture, Perlut said.
State Delegate Kathy Azfali, who is challenging Bartlett in next month's primary, said the `Stache Act situation was a sign that the 10-term incumbent had lost control of his staff and "is out of touch with voters."
Bartlett told WTOP-FM last fall that he grew his mustache in the 1950s as an affront to the clean-shaven.
"For someone who was kind of a nonconformist, it was kind of a symbol of rebellion," he said.
Bartlett supports the Movember campaign, which encourages men to grow mustaches in the month of November to raise money and awareness for men's health, specifically prostate cancer. The mustache institute has contributed to that campaign and other charities.
"I would encourage people who find out about the mustache institute's efforts to make tax-deductible charitable contributions toward the serious Movember philanthropy effort," said Lisa Wright, Bartlett's press secretary.
Wright said she forwarded the mustache institute's white paper on the `Stache Act to the Ways & Means Committee because it's the committee's role to address media inquiries about tax policy.
"I looked at it, and I knew it was a joke," Wright said of the `Stache Act.