McCain’s Financial Non-Disclosure

By Jennifer Parker

Apr 18, 2008 12:17pm

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., today released his 2006 and 2007 tax returns.

He and his wife, Cindy, have maintained separate finances since the beginning of their marriage and, to paraphrase Willie Sutton, her finances are where the money is. 

But McCain’s campaign says he will not provide her tax returns. "As required by federal law and Senate rules, Mrs. McCain has released significant and extensive financial information through Senate and Presidential disclosure forms," the campaign says. "In the interest of protecting the privacy of her children, Mrs. McCain will not be releasing her personal tax returns."

Thus McCain’s information is hardly the complete picture.

In 2006 he earned $161,675 in his Senate salary, $80,390 in book royalty income, $22,104 in Social Security income, and $56,496 in his Navy pension.

In 2007, those numbers were $161,708 in Senate salary, $176,508 from book royalties, $23,157 in Social Security, and $58,358 from the Navy.

McCain gives all of his book royalty income to charity, and the campaign says that since 1991 he has "also donated the increase in his Senate salary for that year and each subsequent year to charity because he opposed the Congressional pay increase at that time and pledged not to accept the pay raises."

But he will no doubt take heat over not disclosing his wife’s finances since she is the reason they live such a comfortable life.

When this issue reared its head in 2004 with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and his multimillionaire wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, the conservative Weekly Standard made an issue out of it, asking why she wouldn’t release her returns.

As did the National Review.

As did Ed Gillespie, then the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

In May 2004 the Kerry campaign released a paltry two pages of information about her finances but it was never enough for those who believed in full disclosure

I guess we’ll see if the conservative media and the RNC feel the same way this year. (Can you imagine the reaction if the Clintons attempted to do this?)

UPDATE: As fate would have it, we just finished up taping an ABC News Shuffle Podcast with Charlie Black, a senior adviser of Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign.

To listen to the full Shuffle Podcast click HERE.

And here are the relevant portions about this disclosure issue.

TAPPER: I want to start right off the bat with asking you about something that just landed in my inbox moments ago which is an email from your campaign saying Sen. John McCain has released his tax returns for 2006 and 2007. First of all it took a long time to get him to release these returns. Why was that and why would he be the third of the three candidates left to do that?

BLACK: Well,…it’s pretty early in the campaign, I don’t know that there was any particular reason to do it earlier. They probably — I wasn’t involved with the accountants or anything but they probably didn’t finish the 07 return until just recently since it was viewed this week.

TAPPER: Well, one thing that I am suspecting you’re going to get lot of heat for is the fact that Senator and Mrs. McCain, Cindy McCain keep their finances separate and you guys have decided not to release Cindy McCain’s returns. …The millions of dollars that she has invested or whatever, the public is not going to find out about, because it says the desire or privacy of the children.

BLACK: Well, U.S. Senators file financial disclosures that are required every year. Presidential candidates file similar financial disclosures. The McCains have complied with that for the whole 24 years he’s been in public life. It’s a lot of information out their about the entire family’s holdings…You know I remember this same set of questions from four years ago when Teresa Heinz Kerry never disclosed her income taxes or much about her wealth. And the press and the American people seem to be fine with that. I don’t think that was a big issue in the election.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, for the record I wasn’t fine with it back then….They (the McCains) might keep their finances separate officially but …they don’t live separate lives, her millions are part of his life so don’t you think the American people have a right to know about any conflicts of interest…Isn’t it keeping with Sen. McCain’s pledge of good government to release as much information as possible. Shouldn’t voters know about any possible conflicts of interest that exist between the McCains and the decisions that Sen. McCain might make as president?

BLACK: Well, look, there are none. He does believe in disclosing what’s required by the rules or by law and will answer any question about any penny of his own income. But a lot is known between what disclosures have been made and the news that has been reported over many, many years. I think anybody who wants to look into it knows that Mrs. McCain has a family business inherited from her father and that that is a principal, more than principal source of income and Sen. McCain has always been careful not to vote on issues involving that industry or that company.

TAPPER: It’s a beer distributor right?

BLACK: Right.

TAPPER: In terms of respecting the children’s privacy — [an excuse given by the campaign for not releasing Cindy McCain's tax returns] — is that because of trusts set up for the children?

BLACK: Yes

TAPPER: Couldn’t she disclose her information and just leave out the parts that have to do with trusts for the children?

BLACK: Well I’m not sure its that easy. Not to duck the question but our communications shop — whose worked with the accountants and knows more details about this than I do — might be able to explain it further. But I think there’s some complicated trust things that make it not easy to segregate all of that out. But again we’ve complied with the law. He’s happy to answer questions about his side of this. We don’t believe there’s anything significant about Mrs. McCain’s status that isn’t pretty well known to the press.

- jpt

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