Claire McCaskill admits to $287,000 in unpaid taxes on private plane


Sen. Claire McCaskill,(D-Mo.) is taking heat for her use of a private plane to get around the state. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

“I have convinced my husband to sell the damn plane,” McCaskill told reporters on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I will not be setting foot on the plane ever again.”

McCaskill and her husband, Joe Shepard, co-own the eight-seat, two-engine plane with other investors. They bought it in July of 2006 through Sunset Cove Associates, an LLC her husband incorporated in 2002.

The tax revelations are the only the latest problem for McCaskill involving the plane,however.

In the wake of a Politico report that had billed the government for her travel on the aircraft, she quickly reimbursed taxpayers for the trips, hoping to avoid a protracted political problem.

But, it was then revealed that she had billed taxpayers for a purely political trip — deepening her potential exposure on the issue.

On the conference call, McCaskill said that after she discovered the political trip on the plane she conducted an extensive audit of all the times she used it. That search turned up the fact that she had not paid personal property taxes on the aircraft totaling $287,273. (Not all states charge these taxes, and because planes are not registered with the state or the county, she was never billed.) The senator said she understood that Missourians would be confused about how this happened, but insisted it was an honest mistake. “I’m being held accountable, like I should be,” she said. “I made this mistake.”

Republicans, not surprisingly, have had a field day with McCaskill’s plane problems. The Missouri Republican Party has filed an ethics complaint against her while the National Republican Senatorial Committee is demanding she release tax records for the company that leases the plane, along with more information on each of the flights she took.

“This raises very serious questions for Senator McCaskill’s re-election bid because if there are two things voters don’t like, it’s a hypocrite and a tax cheat, and Senator McCaskill just admitted to being both,” said NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer. The NRSC is also circulating a web video that features the incumbent saying: “If my walk doesn’t match my talk, then shame on me and don’t ever vote for me again.”

McCaskill, herself, acknowledged the trouble the plane issue has caused her on today’s call. “It sounded like a good idea, but it’s very expensive and its very complicated,” she said. “I think it does complicate things for the public.”

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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