Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill has made fighting government waste, pork barrel spending and corruption the focus of her entire political persona.
In Senate floor speeches she often cites her history as a Missouri state auditor, lists government accountability as one of her top issues, and has led the charge to change senate rules to be more transparent.
That’s why her admission that she may have improperly charged taxpayers for a flight to a political event on her private plane could be particularly troubling to her brand. McCaskill is up for reelection in 2012 and facing a likely tough campaign.
She quickly repaid about $88,000 to taxpayers for all her flights on the plane, when she was asked about them by Politico earlier this month. But the resulting review of her plane unearthed something more troubling. McCaskill admitted Monday she had failed to pay four years of taxes on the plan – $287,000 worth.
In a conference call with reporters McCaskill said she will get rid of the plane. Listen to McCaskill's conference call HERE.
“I have convinced my husband to sell the damn plane,” McCaskill said. “I will never set foot on the plane again.”
She said there was never a bill for the property tax sent by the state or county because, in an oversight, she had never reported to the county that the plan was being kept in St. Louis. The plane is owned by a Delaware corporation set up by her husband, the businessman Joe Shepard.
“I know better. As an auditor, I should have checked the documentation. I should have been asking the questions. I shouldn’t have assumed that someone was doing it,” McCaskill said Monday.
Republicans, predictably, have pounced on the plane controversy.
“Can Missouri voters even believe anything Senator McCaskill says anymore? This is the third time in less than two weeks that she’s had to change her story about her private plane, and she only admitted any of her wrongdoing once she got caught by the media," National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Rob Jesmer said. "Now, millionaire Claire McCaskill wants to simply write yet another big check and hope people won’t ask any more questions. It’s high time for McCaskill to finally live up to the same standards of transparency and accountability that she demands of others by immediately releasing her shell company tax records.”
A whopping 23 Democratic-held Senate seats are up for re-election in 2012, compared to only 10 for Republicans, giving the GOP a chance to wrest back control of the Senate.