Missouri GOP calls for McCaskill ethics hearing

A day after Sen. Claire McCaskill said that she owes St. Louis County $287,000 in unpaid personal property taxes on her family’s private airplane, Republicans continued to attack her ethics and image as a Senate reformer.

For the second time in a week, the Missouri Republican Party said that it will ask the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate whether she improperly used taxpayer money to pay for a political trip.

McCaskill has said that on two occasions between 2007 and 2010, her office mistakenly billed as official business the costs of trips to Democratic events in Kansas City and Hannibal on the senator’s private plane.

In effect, the GOP is asking the Senate to hold an inquiry into what the Missouri Democrat has already acknowledged and since repaid to the U.S. Treasury.

In a conference call with reporters, Missouri GOP Executive Director Lloyd Smith also said that the potential political fallout over the controversy could affect McCaskill’s re-election next year. Two Republican candidates have already said they plan to run for her seat. Smith said that others might get in now as well.

“I think they are showing a new interest in at least thinking about running for this office,” he said.

McCaskill took responsibility for not paying the personal property taxes on the plane, which she co-owns with her husband and some investors.

“This was a mistake,” she said Monday.

The official owner is a company registered in Delaware, but the aircraft is kept in St. Louis County, where it would be subject to the taxes.

St. Louis County Spokeswoman Martina Price said that the county sends out personal property declaration forms in January, which are due in March, for residents to declare what they own.

“If (the plane) is hangered in St. Louis County in January, the owner needs to declare it,” Price said.

McCaskill repaid the taxes Monday, based on an estimate of what the plane’s owners think they owe. The check was written on the account of Sunset Cove Associates, LLC, one of two companies linked to the ownership of the plane.

Price confirmed that the county received a check for $287,231, but said the exact amount owed on the plane is not yet known.

“No tax bill has been established,” Price said. “None of that has been calculated on our end.”

Use of the plane has been one long political headache for McCaskill since Politico first reported two weeks ago that she used it to travel on Senate business, which is permitted by Senate rules.

“Maybe Claire McCaskill thinks she can just write a big check and everything will disappear,” Smith said.

He reiterated the party’s call for her to release the tax returns for the companies connected to the plane’s ownership.

“Release the damn records,” Smith said, paraphrasing McCaskill’s own remarks Monday when she said that as the controversy grew, she told her husband to “sell the damn plane.”

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