Is the NY Times covering for John Kerry on his taxes? Perhaps the Kerry team released the news too late for the Times fully to explore, but the people at "All The News..." have skipped right past interesting questions about Kerry's healthcare plan, and possible questions about McCain-Feingold-Renoir.
The focus of this story is on the Bush and Cheney tax returns. Problems develop when the reporter tries to incorporate the late addition of news on Kerry's taxes. In the third paragraph, we get this disclaimer, with no comment:
Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, made available only his own tax return, which he files separately from his wife, the food industry heiress Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Then, this gets tacked onto the end of the story. If it represents the culmination of the Times published reporting on this (they have more on their website, and may have more on Thursday), then it will vindicate Kerry's "release it late and they'll bury it" strategy:
Mr. Kerry, who revealed nothing of his wife's income and taxes, reported an adjusted gross income of $395,338, consisting mostly of his Senate salary, $145,000 of capital gains and $89,000 of book royalties. He paid tax of $90,575, or 22.9 percent, compared with an average of 26.1 percent for his income group in 2001.
Mr. Kerry paid taxes on royalties from his book "A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America" and is donating the balance to charity, his aides said. His charitable deductions last year were $43,735.
Kerry, whose total income was up dramatically from $144,091 in 2002, augmented his $147,818 in wages with $89,000 from the sale of his book ``A Call to Service'' and $145,000 in capital gains from the sale of a half interest in a painting last year.
Why might the Times have dropped that tidbit about the painting? Space considerations? Is it just a bit too distant from "Kerry - man of the people"? Or do we not want to know how he got a half interest in the painting at all - is it shared with his first wife after all these years, which we don't want to discuss; might he have shared it with his brother as a bequest from the parents (very innocent, although lacking the common touch); or is it a gift from his second wife, in which case those of us wondering about campaign finance rules will scratch our heads? If we could see his wife's tax return, we would get a clue - oops, sorry. And should we wonder whether the picture was professionally appraised, on the off chance that he got a sweetheart price from a wealthy supporter? The Times does not.
The Reuters story tantalizes us with this:
Kerry, who refused public funding for the primary campaign and the spending limits that go with it, is prohibited by law from using his wife's funds for his campaign but can use some joint investments.
Would the painting be a joint investment? In that case, can we ask how he became a half-owner?
And perhaps people will want to hear more about this, also ignored by the Times:
Kerry had $43,735 in charitable contributions among his $48,674 in itemized deductions, which included more than $9,000 in medical and dental expenses and more than $3,000 in home mortgage interest.
Isn't Kerry always talking up his Government sponsored health care plan? [Or here] What did he spend the $9,000 on, and how might Joe Six-pack relate to that? Possible Kerry motto: Health care that's always there, if you have $9 Grand to spare. Release the medical records!
As a footnote, the Times' treatment of Cheney's tax situation is also absurd. After lots of early discussion of the low effective tax rate paid by the Cheneys, we get this, buried near the bottom:
Generosity helped account for the Cheneys' relatively low tax rate. The Cheneys donated $321,141 to charity, mostly royalties from Mrs. Cheney's books...
That contrasts with the Cheney's Federal tax payment of $241,392.
MORE: My schedule today is a disaster, but the comments are open. The president's press conference is below.
UPDATE: Cry "taxes", and let slip the blogs of war - Byron York of NRO is on the painting side of the story (Not a Renoir, but 17th-century Dutch seascape painter Adam Willaerts), acquired in 1995 - scratch the ex-, scratch the -rents, and thanks to Serona.
MORE: Here is Edwin Chen of the LA Times, taking a story about Bush and Cheney's taxes and frantically sticking in the Kerry news without time to evaluate it. Folks watching the press conference last night remember that Mr. Chen asked a question, so he may not have had any time at all for this. Thursday should tell us whether the Kerry team successfully slipped this through the cracks.
And for a look at a real newspaper - the Wednesday WaPo is all over the painting, but misses the "health care that wasn't there" puzzle.
Can we agree the Times owes us one?
MORE: The NRO has the .pdf file of Kerry's return. We note that Kerry reports gross medical/dental of $9K; he calculates a threshold expense (using 0.075) of $29k, resulting in no net deduction.
The painting is described in the capital gains section - it was sold on March 23, 2003 for gross proceeds of $675,000 (1/2 share); with a cost basis of $500,000,this gave a gain of $175,000.
HAVING FUN NOW: The campaign finance angle is probably hopeless. Kerry raised the cash from this sale in March 2003; he did not lend or contribute any money to his campaign until the time of his famous mortgage in December (See FEC filings to Dec 31, 2003 and to Mar 31, 2004).
Now, he initially wrote a check for $850,000 from his walking around money; eventually he got a mortgage for $6.4 million, which became the amount lent to the campaign (presumably, he replenished his personal liquidity fund).
So, he had always said he would invest in his campaign, according to his campaign manager. He had some cash handy, but how would one be able to say that the $675,000 raised in March was the bulk of the $850,000 lent in December?
MORE: No follow-up visible at the NY Times. My tirade continues.
VERY LATE UPDATE: Alex Beam of the Globe has lots of gory details:
...In his 2003 tax filing, released last week, Kerry reported $147,000 of income from his day job in the US Senate and the hefty capital gain from the sale of the Willaerts. The form indicated that his share of the painting was acquired by Kerry in 1996. The facts are even more complicated. Teresa Heinz Kerry was a one-half owner of the painting, with art dealer Peter Tillou, when she assigned one half of her interest to Kerry, whom she married in 1995.
"She and I bought it in London about 10 years ago," says Tillou, whose base of operations is now in Litchfield, Conn. "We're very good friends, and she said, `Peter, let's buy it together.' It was an investment for her." The painting never hung in any of Kerry's or Heinz Kerry's domiciles in Boston, Pittsburgh, or Washington, D.C. Tillou kept it in Litchfield or in New York, or showed it at exhibitions, like one held at the Chrysler Museum in Virginia four years ago.
OK, so it was a gift from the new wife. But the money eventually proved useful for his campaign.