WSJ's Henninger called Cindy McCain's refusal to release tax returns "a fairly marginal issue," but WSJ urged Heinz Kerry to release hers

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Dan Henninger said of Cindy McCain's refusal to release her tax returns: "I think it's a fairly marginal issue." But in a July 2004 editorial, the Journal asserted that it was "past time" for Sen. John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, to release her tax returns, stating, "Their assets should be disclosed to the voters so that they can assess whether there are any potential conflicts of interest."

On the May 9 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs said of the refusal of Sen. John McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, to release her tax returns: "Whose business is it anyway? She would be if he's elected, first lady, whose business is it? And to hear all this nonsense, at least to me?" In response, Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Dan Henninger asserted, "I think it's a fairly marginal issue." But in a July 1, 2004, editorial, the Journal asserted that it was "past time" for Sen. John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, to release her tax returns. The editorial's subheadline stated: "His divorce records are his own business. His wife's tax returns aren't." The Journal claimed: "The Kerrys would be the richest couple ever to live in the White House, and with wealth comes responsibility. Their assets should be disclosed to the voters so that they can assess whether there are any potential conflicts of interest." In calling on Heinz Kerry to release her tax returns, the Journal also cited the role Heinz Kerry's wealth purportedly played in her husband's presidential campaign. But Cindy McCain's personal fortune has reportedly played a role in the presidential campaign of her husband as well.

According to Henninger's Journal biography, Henninger became deputy editorial page editor in 1989; his June 25, 2004, and July 2, 2004, columns similarly identify him as such.

In an April 4 article, Associated Press reporter Sharon Theimer wrote that "[t]he McCains' marriage has mixed business and politics from the beginning, according to an expansive review by the Associated Press of thousands of pages of campaign, personal finance, real estate and property records nationwide." Further, in an April 27 New York Times article, Barry Meier and Margot Williams reported that McCain's campaign used a corporate jet owned by his wife's company, Hensley & Co., "over a seven-month period beginning last summer" and that "[f]or five of those months, the plane was used almost exclusively for campaign-related purposes." Meier and Williams added that "McCain's campaign was able to use his wife's corporate plane like a charter jet while paying first-class rates, several campaign finance experts said. Several of those experts, however, added that his campaign's actions, while keeping with the letter of law, did not reflect its spirit." In a May 10 post to the Times blog The Caucus, Meir and Williams reported that "Federal Aviation Administration records indicate that she appears to be using her personal wealth to help his campaign, through the continued use of her corporate jet," and that "[a]ccording to public records, the campaign has continued to use the plane, even as Mr. McCain, of Arizona, became the presumed Republican nominee and his campaign's finances have improved."

McCain also used Arizona property owned by Cindy McCain for a March 2 barbecue for reporters. The property is worth more than $1 million and, according to a profile by Home & Garden Television, has both a guest house and a third house next door for additional "living and entertainment space."

Further, in calling on Heinz Kerry to release her tax returns, the Journal asserted: "Since the Kerry campaign is proposing to raise tax rates on the upper middle class, most people would probably like to know whether the Kerry household uses tax-avoidance techniques to avoid paying its 'fair share.' " But during his appearance on Lou Dobbs Tonight, Henninger did not address whether "most people would probably like to know" the extent to which the McCains have benefited from the Bush tax cuts -- which John McCain supports extending permanently, after previously opposing them. An analysis of how the McCains have benefited from the tax cuts is not possible based on the information his campaign has released about Cindy McCain's income.

On April 18, the McCain campaign released John McCain's 2006 and 2007 income tax returns, but not Cindy McCain's separate returns. As part of John McCain's tax returns, the campaign released the "Wages and Salaries" that Cindy McCain received in 2006 and 2007 as chair of Hensley & Co., the McCains' share of interest income from a bank account, and their shares of income from John McCain's book royalties. But the information did not reveal the capital gains income, if any, for Cindy McCain from that period. By contrast, Heinz Kerry did release what The New York Times reported on October 16, 2004, was a "two-page document" showing "total income of $5,073,554 last year" that enabled the Times to determine how much she had benefited from the Bush tax cuts.

Media Matters for America previously noted that between January 1 and May 5, notwithstanding its 2004 call for Heinz Kerry to release her tax returns, the Journal did not similarly call on Cindy McCain to release her returns. According to a Media Matters search* of editorials since May 5, the Journal still has not called on Cindy McCain to release her returns.

From a July 1, 2004, Wall Street Journal editorial:

[I]t's past time for his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, to release her full filings with the IRS.

[...]

Given Mrs. Heinz Kerry's fortune, estimated by the Los Angeles Times at between $900 million and $3.2 billion, it's unlikely she is doing anything unethical to raise the money for a mortgage, like the Clintons. But the Heinz fortune has already played a key role in financing Senator Kerry's political ambitions.

When his primary campaign was running out of cash last year, Mr. Kerry mortgaged his half of the couple's Beacon Hill house for $6.4 million.

[...]

The Kerrys would be the richest couple ever to live in the White House, and with wealth comes responsibility. Their assets should be disclosed to the voters so that they can assess whether there are any potential conflicts of interest. Since the Kerry campaign is proposing to raise tax rates on the upper middle class, most people would probably like to know whether the Kerry household uses tax-avoidance techniques to avoid paying its "fair share."

From the May 9 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: Well, let's talk about what will happen to Senator John McCain. I think the same thing is possible, either winning big or losing big. His wife refusing to give her income tax statements. I'm watching more people harrumphing with absolute disgust, "My goodness, how could she dare?" I mean, do you think that's terrible, that she, having filed separate tax return all of her married life, is saying, "No, I'm not going to?"

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN (Democratic strategist): I'm really not too concerned about it --

DOBBS: Good for you.

ZIMMERMAN: -- because it's not about transparency, but it is about hypocrisy because these are the same Republicans who demand Teresa Heinz Kerry --

DOBBS: You know, I just got whiplash, I went from transparency to --

ZIMMERMAN: Hypocrisy, absolutely. Because it's typical of the hypocrisy that has been the hallmark of the McCain campaign, in particular after, of course, they all demanded that Teresa Heinz Kerry release her income taxes.

DOBBS: So, it doesn't bother you all?

ZIMMERMAN: But she's not --

DOBBS: Michael?

ZIMMERMAN: The hypocrisy does, though.

MICHAEL GOODWIN (New York Daily News columnist): Look, I think had they structured their taxes this year for this purpose, then it would be bothersome. The fact is they've been doing it this way for roughly 20 years, so I don't think it was done to specifically -- to shield her during the campaign.

DOBBS: Whose business is it anyway? She would be, if elected, if he's elected, first lady, whose business is it? And to hear all this nonsense, at least to me?

HENNINGER: Well, I think it's a fairly marginal issue. You know, eventually we're going to get into the general election. It's as though we have two elections. The primaries are like the playoffs; now we're going to get to the finals. And at that point, I think the American people will be looking at these two men and what they are saying --

ZIMMERMAN: Or man and woman.

HENNINGER: Or the man and woman.

DOBBS: Good job, Robert.

HENNINGER: It's going to be a liberal Democrat versus a conservative Republican, and I think come November the vote is going to be as tight as it's been the last several elections.

ZIMMERMAN: Quite to the contrary, it's going to be a mainstream Democrat versus a Republican who's taken both sides of almost every critical issue.

DOBBS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Dan said "conservative Republican." It is so noted, it's so written. It shall be.

[crosstalk]

GOODWIN: That was the news.

DOBBS: All right, Dan, thank you very much, great to have you with us. Michael, thank you very much. Robert, great to see you. Have a great weekend.

ZIMMERMAN: Hanging in there.

DOBBS: Go get 'em.

ZIMMERMAN: OK.

DOBBS: Persevere. Persevere. Coming up at the top of the hour, the Election Center with Wolf Blitzer in for Campbell Brown. Wolf?

*Search terms in Factiva: The Wall Street Journal AND McCain AND tax! AND review and outlook between May 5, 2008, and May 11, 2008.

Posted In
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Daniel Henninger
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Lou Dobbs Tonight
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John McCain, 2008 Elections
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