Your obligatory “McCains are tax deadbeats” column

So our Sunday morning political festival will apparently be opening up with a late breaking story from Newsweek. In it, we find a tawdry tale of tax scofflaws thumbing their nose at their civic responsibilities… sort of.

Mrs. McCain, San Diego County Would Like a Word

When you’re poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you’re rich, it’s hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It’s a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees.

San Diego County officials, it turns out, have been sending out tax notices on the La Jolla property, an oceanfront condo, for four years without receiving a response. County records show the bills, which were mailed to a Phoenix address associated with Mrs. McCain’s trust, were returned by the post office.

Since I am a thinly disguised, cheap lowbrow hack, let’s get the mandatory McCain joke out of the way, shall we?

Wow! That John McCain really IS opposed to taxes, isn’t he?!

Har Har Har.

The story has already prompted a predictable response from some of the GOP’s detractors, causing some to label the McCains “deadbeats”, others to call this a “tax scandal” and causing The American Street’s Mark Adams to declare it the end of Big Mac’s presidential bid, with a banner to be hung over the McCain campaign headquarters reading, “Abandon hope all ye that enter here.”

A deeper look at this story, however, makes it a bit less of a clear-cut scandal or disaster of biblical proportions. First of all, it’s not clear that John McCain’s name is even attached to the property in any fashion. It’s also not directly held by his wife, Cindy, but by one of a number of trusts she oversees. (An elderly aunt of hers apparently lives in the condo.) Tax bills on the property have been sent out regularly, but it seems that they were being mailed to an old, incorrect address – not the bank currently handling the property – and being returned by the post office to the sender. It seems unlikely that Cindy McCain was even aware of the overdue bill, and even less probable that Senator McCain has even heard of the place for years.

Does this excuse Cindy McCain’s trust from their obligations to pay their taxes? Obviously not. And as the article shows, as soon as the error was pointed out, remissions were made.

Shortly after NEWSWEEK inquired about the matter, the McCain aide e-mailed a receipt dated Friday, June 27, confirming payment by the trust to San Diego County in the amount of $6,744.42. County officials say the trust still owes an additional $1,742 for this year, an amount that is overdue and will go into default July 1. Told of the outstanding $1,742, the aide said: “The trust has paid all bills shown owing as of today and will pay all other bills due.”

An embarassing error on the part of the heiress’s accounting staff to be sure. But does this story reflect on the personal responsibility and character of the candidate? I’ll leave that for the reader to judge, but this honestly sounds like the kind of paperwork snafu which can and does happen in any large, sprawling business enterprise. And does anyone think that roughly eight thousand dollars is even a fly on the windscreen of Cindy McCain’s family holdings?

I somehow doubt that John McCain is sharpening up his samurai sword for a seppuku ritual over this one. As for me, I’ll try to strike a balance between being shocked and bored.

BONUS ROUND: Hot Air has a bit more of an analysis on how this situation really doesn’t parallel Al Franken’s ongoing tax woes.