Every answer seems to lead to more questions regarding the nearly $320,000 worth of back taxes, interest, penalties and fees for a plane Sen. Claire McCaskill failed to pay personal property taxes on for four years.
How does the senator from Missouri owe $319.541 in taxes, interest, penalties and fees on a plane owned by a company she lists on her financial disclosure statement as worth less than $1,001?
The plane is leased, according to McCaskill’s office.
How does a firm worth less than $1,001 pay a tax bill of $319.541? Where did the money come from?
The plane is owned by another company, which is also owned by McCaskill and her husband, along with other partners, according to McCaskill’s office.
McCaskill revealed last week she failed to pay $287,283 in property taxes on her airplane.
After interest, penalties and fees were added for failing to pay for four years, the bill totaled $319.541.
“The voters will have to decide whether this big, serious, sloppy mistake is enough for them not to decide to hire me again,” McCaskill said during a radio conference call Wednesday, adding she is going to try not to become distracted in what she expects to become a circus like atmosphere during her reelection campaign. “This problem came to light because of the kind of transparency that I have worked for for 30 years in government.”
The Missouri Republican Party called on the Democrat to release her tax records last week and filed a supplemental ethics complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee. Afterwards, a spokesperson for McCaskill told Missouri Watchdog the senator’s financial disclosure statements have far more detailed information.
Examining financial statements
Here is what Missouri Watchdog has been able to uncover examining the financial statements and asking McCaskill’s office questions: The plane is owned by Timesaver, a limited liability company owned by McCaskill and her husband, along with other partners. Sunset Cove, another LLC, leases the plane from Timesaver.
Because of the type of lease entered into between Timesaver and Sunset Cove, Sunset Cove owed the St. Louis County Department of Revenue personal property taxes on the plane, according to McCaskill’s office. When there are owed expenses, such as taxes, the LLC does not have funds for, the partners are collectively responsible.
Timesaver is listed as being worth between $250,000 and $500,000 on McCaskill’s financial statements.
Looking for more answers
There are still questions, however. Where exactly did the nearly $320,000 come from to pay back taxes, interest, penalties and fees? St. Louis County lists the property tax bill online as paid by Sunset Cove last Friday.
Did McCaskill pay the bill? Or was part of it paid by partners? Plus, why are there more than 150 firms listed as worth less than $1,000 on her financial statements? Are these partnerships? Are all her taxes being paid?
McCaskill hit political turbulence earlier this month when the online news site Politico first reported a story about McCaskill flying on her airplane and billing taxpayers. McCaskill then acknowledged one flight was for “purely political travel” and refunded all of the taxpayer money she received from the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The Missouri GOP followed by filing its original ethics complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee, accusing the senator of “drawing personal profits” from a company owned by her and her husband for plane rentals.
The Missouri GOP wants the Senate committee to use its subpoena power to force McCaskill to release her tax documents. “Release the damn records,” said Lloyd Smith, executive director of the party, last week.
After revealing the unpaid taxes — and accepting blame for what she called a mistake — McCaskill said she would not set foot in the plane again. “I have convinced my husband to sell the damn plane,” she said.
McCaskill continues to stress she found the problem and took responsibility.
“I hope the way I have handled this is consistent with my image,” said McCaskill on Wednesday.
“I found the problem. I owned it. And I made sure it got fixed quickly.”