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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Time to Ground AIRCLAIRE

Once upon a time Claire McCaskill was the State Auditor for Missouri.  Then she became a U.S. Senator.  Now she has decided to write campaign ads for the GOP candidates who will run against her next year.

Claire and her husband own a plane.  They formed a company for this plane.  Then Claire paid tax dollars to this company for her use of her own plane to fly back and forth to Missouri.  This would be like you or I using our own vehicle on company business, but billing the company the going rate of a car rental.  Federal law provides an allowable use rate for personal vehicles, but doesn't specify a policy for use of personal aircraft.  It's hard to believe that the $76,000 Claire has charged taxpayers since 2007 would be an acceptable allowance if such a policy existed.
 
Since being "caught", AirClaire has agreed to reimburse the U.S. Taxpayers in the amount of $88,000 although she claims the charges were legal.  She's right - they were technically legal.  But it's very hard to claim they were ethical.

McCaskill spokesman, Maria Speiser said, "Sen. McCaskill has been very careful flying on taxpayer dollars."  Apparently not careful enough seeing that she has now been caught.

Claire, as a Senator, has been very aggressive in pursuing waste and transparency for travel by lawmakers.  But in the typical Washington hypocrisy, she meant others, not herself.  This is the same hypocrisy that allows Al Gore to rant about the consumption of average everyday citizens, while his own use would rival that of mid-size towns.  Or Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the head of our tax collections, but who had been negligent in paying his own taxes.
Senator McCaskill proposed legislation in February of this year that would terminate the employment of Federal employees who are delinquent in their taxes.  Would that mean all the Obama appointments who had trouble paying their taxes are now ineligible to be Federal Employees? 

Claire wasn't done writing ads for her opponent in next year's Senate campaign, though.  After reviewing her records, Claire has found that she owes St. Louis County, $287,000 in property taxes on her plane.  Senator McCaskill is a Federal employee who is delinquent in paying her taxes, so she must obviously be let go.  In fact, if Claire wanted to avoid being hypocritical, she would simply resign at this point.

At this point, I'm tired of hearing this same story.  Why are there different rules for politicians like Claire McCaskill, Tim Geithner, Tom Daschle and many, many more?  Then these same politicians want to crack down on the lower classes or raise our taxes at the same time.  How can anyone believe that they are on our side? 

McCaskill's spokesperson said that she "understands that the optics" involved in the use of her own plane at taxpayer expense looks bad.  I'm sure there is a similar statement to be made about the back taxes she owes, too.  But the bigger optics problem is the fact that Senator McCaskill can pull out her checkbook and write checks for nearly $400,000 and expect that to be the end of it.

I understand that people will make mistakes from time to time.  But if I make a $40,000 mistake, I will be hounded by the government every day.  My phone will be ringing off the hook, wages garnished, fines and fees will be added, my tax refunds confiscated.  I can't write a check for $40,000 even if I wanted to, so this mistake will be with me for several years.

But AirClaire's mistake is 10 times that and she thinks paying it off and selling the plane is good enough.  There's you optics problem, Claire.  As Mark Hemingway at the Weekly Standard blog put it,
Ah Senators, they're just like you and me! Who among us hasn't forgotten to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes on our private aircraft, after billing the government to use it 88 times? But because McCaskill is getting folksy with her admission of wrongdoing -- she said the word 'damn,' so clearly she takes this matter very seriously -- all is forgiven, right?
Perhaps Claire is simply a bad auditor.  Maybe she just isn't Patriotic enough as Vice President Biden would put it.  Or it is exactly what it seems - Claire and other politicians have one set of rules for us, but a different set of rules for themselves.  This is of course the text book definition of hypocrisy - "Some for me, but none for thee".

We've watched Claire say one thing, then do another on the important legislation in Washington.  Politicians lie to the voters all the time.  But stealing from them is very different and should not go unpunished.  We must exercise our right to terminate Claire's employment with the Federal Government.  It's time to ground AirClaire.

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