McCain Releases Tax Returns
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Republican presidential candidate John McCain released tax returns yesterday showing he collected a more modest income than either of his Democratic rivals, but he withheld filings made by his wife, Cindy, that would have given a more complete picture of his family finances.
Campaign officials said McCain declined to release Cindy McCain's separate tax returns to protect the privacy of his wife and their children. As precedent, senior adviser Steve Schmidt cited Democrat John F. Kerry in 2004; his wife, Teresa, similarly had filed separate returns from the candidate.
But the campaign appeared misinformed about the tax information provided by Teresa Heinz Kerry, who after initially disclosing only a portion of her financial information eventually made public the first two pages of her tax returns.
McCain released only two years of his filings, covering income made in 2006 and 2007. His possible opponents, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), have between them shared decades of tax returns that cover millions of dollars in earnings by themselves and their spouses.
McCain's returns show that he earned about $420,000 last year and $320,000 in 2006 through his job in the Senate, his published memoirs, his U.S. Navy pension and his Social Security benefits.
In contrast, Obama's tax returns from 2000 to the forms he filed last week showed escalating income that peaked last year at $4.2 million, most of it in profits from his best-selling books. The Clintons took in $20.4 million last year, much of it due to former president Bill Clinton's profitable speaking career.
Cindy McCain, with assets valued at $25 million to $50 million, inherited her fortune from her family's privately held beer distributorship. She now serves as chairman of Hensley & Company, and some of her earnings are considered community property under Arizona law. In one portion of her husband's return, her salary is cited as $432,991, although few other details are provided.
The McCains' comfortable lifestyle includes a 15-acre ranch alongside a picturesque river in a valley outside Sedona, Ariz. Disclosure forms show that Cindy McCain's financial holdings are enough to make her husband the 17th-wealthiest member of Congress, according to OpenSecrets.org. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics tracks financial disclosure data filed annually, and it places the McCains' net worth at $27.8 million to $45 million.
McCain's decision not to release his wife's returns baffled some Washington ethics experts. They noted that plenty of detail about the McCain children's trust accounts and even their credit card debt is included in the candidate's Senate financial disclosure forms.
"I think this argument about the privacy of the kids is really a red herring," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "The fact is, it is precedent that presidential candidates release their returns. When you don't, it looks like you've got something to hide."
McCain in 2007 donated about $105,000 to charities, most of it -- about $88,000 -- to the family foundation that he and his wife run. That amounted to nearly one-quarter of his reported income for last year. But because the McCains file separately, it is hard to know if that is a large part of the family income.
"The raw dollar amounts certainly are generous," said John D. Colombo, an expert on charitable-tax law at the University of Illinois law school. "But, we don't know what Cindy McCain's income is, and we don't know if John has sources of income," such as tax-exempt bond interest, which would not be reported on a federal tax return.