May 23, 2008 -- After GOP Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign spent the past several days dumping a series of lobbyists with conflict-of-interest issues, rejecting endorsements from two controversial evangelists and releasing the 71-year-old candidate's medical records, what could be left to jettison?
A small portion of his wealthy wife's IRS returns, apparently.
As millions of Americans switched off the news this afternoon and hit the road for the Memorial Day weekend, the McCain campaign released the first two pages of his wealthy wife's 2006 IRS filing.
The pages summarize the would-be first lady's finances for that year. They state she earned $6 million, mostly through real estate and corporate holdings. She claimed $569,737 in deductions and had an estimated federal tax bill of $1.75 million. Beyond that the returns say next to nothing, experts confirmed.
"It tells us she has a lot of money, lives off income from her investments, but doesn't tell us how that money is made," tax lawyer Lee Sheppard said.
Sheppard called the release a "symbolic but hollow gesture."
In 2006, McCain made about $160,000 as a U.S. senator. Additionally, he reported in his Senate disclosures, he received $56,000 in income from his Navy pension, as well as a glass bird from the Republican Main Street Partnership valued at $850, and an $8,000 Waterford crystal eagle on an engraved stand from Irish American Magazine. Royalties for the books he wrote were donated to charity.
The release of Cindy McCain's tax information came just weeks after she and the campaign vowed she would not share the information with the public. It also came largely without notice -- unlike the campaign's release of the candidate's medical history early Friday morning.
"Ms. McCain decided to make the information available despite her concerns about protecting her personal privacy and that of her children," said a campaign spokesman who declined to be named. "She just didn't want the release of the tax returns to become a distraction from the big issues of the campaign."
The timing of the release, he said, was "absolutely not" part of a strategy to minimize attention to the documents. "This is a decision that was made fairly recently, and this is the time that we could do it."
He rejected the notion that the documents were not informative. "This release exceeds what Theresa Heinz Kerry did in 2004," he said, referring to the wife of former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "And she waited until a month before the election to release one year of tax returns."
Moreover, the spokesman said, the sources of Cindy McCain's income -- including stocks, mutual funds and partnership holdings -- are identified in her husband's annual Senate financial disclosures.
John McCain released his tax returns last month (also on a Friday afternoon). But because the couple file separately, and the vast majority of the family's wealth is held by Cindy McCain and their children, reporters and Democrats have clamored for her to release her information as well. Until today she averred, citing the privacy of her dependent children, whose financial information apparently appears on her forms.
ABC News' Bret Hovell contributed to this report.