Air Claire

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is in deep trouble.  She and her husband are millionaires, and have their own private plane.  A few weeks ago, a series of scandals surrounding this plane have unfolded.  She tapped into her Senate budget to the tune of $76,000 to fund use of her own plane – a serious violation of Senate ethics, if any of the trips were made for political purposes.  She also “neglected” to pay $287,000 in personal property taxes on the aircraft.

Once these improprieties came to light, McCaskill scrambled to reimburse taxpayers for the improper expenses, cover the unpaid back taxes, and even sell the plane in a last-ditch effort to make the whole problem go away. 

McCaskill’s spin on the situation is that she’s a lovable ditz who just kind of forgot to take care of some paperwork, taking “full responsibility” for the “mistake” of “not checking the documentation” herself.  According to the Politico, she told a conference call of reporters that she’s been “sick to her stomach for four days since this has happened.”

Her property tax avoidance looks suspiciously like a deliberate strategy, not a “mistake.”  The plane was registered to a company McCaskill formed in Delaware, which does not have personal property taxes.  Missouri law says the plane is still subject to its state taxes, because it’s hangared in Missouri.  McCaskill used to be the state auditor of Missouri, a position she held for eight years.  Claiming she didn’t know the law is either an outrageous insult to voters and taxpayers, or clear indication that she is mentally unfit to hold a Senate seat.

The most annoying thing about the “Air Claire” saga is the mindset that brought it about.  We’re constantly being told we all have to make big sacrifices to keep our titanic government running.  The official position of McCaskill’s party is that spending cuts are absolutely unthinkable – they couldn’t bring themselves to cut more than four million bucks out of a $3.6 trillion budget with a trillion-dollar deficit. 

And yet, like the rest of the ruling class, McCaskill is not prepared to make any sacrifices.  She thought nothing of grabbing thousands of dollars from taxpayers to fund the use of her own private aircraft.  She claims she didn’t consider paying taxes on the $2 million plane sufficiently important to deal with it herself, a “mistake” that went on for four years.  She obviously doesn’t get up every morning looking for ways to save the taxpayers money, or making certain her “fair share” is paid into the Treasury.

We might also pause to thank McCaskill and the rest of her Party for creating a cash-hungry tax system with so many regulations that it makes sense to form a company in Delaware, and let them hold the title to the plane you keep in St. Louis, in order to avoid tax laws that even a seasoned auditor claims she does not fully understand.  We are all lawbreakers – the government could prosecute virtually anyone in America for evading some aspect of tax laws that none of us fully comprehend.  Unlike McCaskill, most private citizens don’t get to smile sheepishly and fork over the uncollected loot, without further repercussions, when we finally get caught. 

As David Catanese of the Politico pointed out yesterday, McCaskill went out of her way to slam a previous political opponent for excessive use of state aircraft.  She obviously viewed this as a tactic of convenience, not a serious criticism of someone who abused taxpayer funding. 

We need to cleanse such people from Washington and our state capitals.  Claire McCaskill agrees, having postured as a dedicated “reformer” who wanted to come down particularly hard on federal employees with serious tax problems.  Will her new excuse be that paying hundreds of thousands in taxes on a $2 million aircraft isn’t “serious?”  That would be an even better reason to be rid of her, as quickly as possible.