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Political Turbulence: Dem Senator Owes $280,000 in Unpaid Taxes for Private Plane

WASHINGTON (AP/The Blaze) — Sen. Claire McCaskill's office said Wednesday she plans to sell her private plane and will pay $287,273 in four years of back taxes owed.

According to Politico, McCaskill also spent $76,000 from her Senate budget on trips on the aircraft over the past four years, prompting the senator to repay more than $88,000 -- the cost of the trips plus pilots -- to the U.S. Treasury.

The Missouri Democrat's husband, Joe Shepard, incorporated Sunset Cove Associates LLC in 2002. The company owns an eight-seat, twin-engine plane which, according to records, McCaskill's Senate office has paid to use 89 times out of taxpayer funds.

“I have convinced my husband to sell the damn plane,” McCaskill said on a conference call with reporters. “I will never set foot on the plane again.”

A spokeswoman for the senator's office said McCaskill and her husband did not make any money by using Sunset Cove Associates to charter her flights. The most recent financial disclosure report on record, from 2006, shows that McCaskill valued her family's stake in Sunset Cove as between $50,000 and $100,000 but reported making less than $200 profit from it.

"She has only paid for the use of her plane as required by the Senate rules, and there has been no profit to her or her family," Speiser said. "She's glad there's transparency — that's why people can see this information."

The use of chartered flights by lawmakers is common and, given demands on their time, can sometimes be an occupational requirement. But McCaskill's use of a plane that is owned by a company her family holds a stake in is unusual. Senate rules do not specify whether senators can be reimbursed for use of a personal aircraft for official use, although staffers and senators are reimbursed when they use their cars for personal business.

McCaskill's use of a family-owned plane, though, runs contrary to the image she often portrays to voters as a straight-talking woman of the people. In 2006 when she campaigned for the Senate she rode around the state in an RV. Additionally, she has urged her congressional colleagues in the past to be extra careful and to pay their taxes in full:

McCaskill, who is up for re-election in 2012, is likely to face a strong Republican challenge. On Monday, the National Republican Senatorial Campaign released an ad attacking "AirClaire" McCaskill on ethics.

Her office said that what McCaskill paid Sunset Cove for her chartered air travel compared favorably to the prices of charter flight companies. McCaskill's office paid an average of $900 a flight each time she flew on the Sunset Cove plane.

"Sen. McCaskill has been very careful flying on taxpayer dollars," the spokesperson said.

One last thing…
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