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“….I have convinced my husband to sell the damn plane…I can tell you I will not be setting foot on the plane ever again….”

This afternoon we received a notification that Senator Claire McCaskill (D) would be holding a media conference call on the issues surrounding the use of her plane. The transcript of Senator McCaskill’s opening remarks follows:

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Thanks everybody. I know that you all are aware that, uh, several days ago, uh, ten days ago, maybe more, it became, um, I became aware that the perception of me chartering a flight that I had an ownership interest in had the appearance of impropriety in terms of using public funds. I, as you know, we refunded that money immediately to the government and then we discovered, um, because of the public records that are available, that there was one flight that was taken for purely political purposes. Clearly the money had already been paid back, but I acknowledged at the time that there was, this was a big mistake and indicated, um, that I apologized for it and acknowledged the mistake. At that point in time then I realized that that kind of mistake had been made, uh, the former auditor in me wanted to take a really close look at everything surrounding this plane. So I began a thorough review of the plane and all of the flights that have been taken and all of the documentation surrounding the plane. And this is, these are some of the things that I found as a result of this review…

…First, as to political use, I wanted to closely examine every flight that was paid for with public money to determine if there had been any other errors where there had been money paid from the public coffers for any political activity. I examined all eighty-nine of those flights. And other than the flight that we have previously acknowledged was a mistake we are unable to find any other political activity on any of those flights, with one slight exception. There was one flight that involved eight different official events and I realize that in the middle of those official events I went by Truman Days in Kansas City, uh, and gave a speech, and that the following morning I stopped by a fundraiser in Kansas City. We believe that that represented about eight percent of that trip, uh, and frankly, um, that eight percent, even though I believe under the rules that’s, that’s considered de minimus, uh, obviously initially that should have been caught.

All of the money has been repaid to the public funds and we will be releasing for you, uh, all of the purposes of those trips and the official events that took place because I think it’s very important that since I initially used public money that the public have a right to inspect those.

I then, um, looked at some of the, uh, other political issues surrounding flights that the government did not pay for. We are trying to turn over every stone in regards to its use and how it was billed. This includes having campaign lawyers look at all of our flights to make sure that I have given all the inkind contributions that are necessary when the plane was used for political purpose and it wasn’t reimbursed by the campaign. There were many instances where the plane was reimbursed by the campaign. There are some instances where it was not and we are determining if in kind contributions from me do need to be filed or any other amendments would need to be filed in that regard.

I then turn to taxes. And, I first looked at sales tax knowing that these flights were, uh, money was being paid for these flights to the, the company that owns the plane regardless of whether I was flying on the plane personally or in official capacity or politically. But first I wanted to look at the sales tax records. I examined the sales tax records, wanted to make sure that they had been paid, in fact, I found that every month for fifty-five months the sales tax has been paid to the state, uh, to account for the state sales tax as well as the county sales tax. That total amount that has been paid in on sales tax is thirty-eight thousand eight hundred dollars. And we will provide you today all the copies of the sales tax remittance that accounts for every month that the sales tax was paid.

Finally, I have discovered that even though we have paid the taxes to the state for sales tax, obviously showing no attempt to hide the plane, I have discovered that the property taxes, the personal property taxes on the plane have not been paid. I have learned that Missouri is one of a minority of states that require personal property taxes be paid on airplanes that are hangared in the state and that those taxes are due to the county. There should have been a reporting to the county of the existence of this airplane since it has been hangared in St. Louis County. Because it was never declared to the county there was never a bill sent and there was never a bill paid.

There are people I could blame for this. But, I know better. As an auditor I know that I should have checked for myself. I take full responsibility for the mistake. I should have checked the documentation. I should have been asking the questions. I shouldn’t have assumed that someone was doing it.

According to the estimates that I am able to calculate by publicly available information the taxes that are owed are as follows:  for two thousand and seven, seventy-two thousand seven hundred and eighty nine dollars and seventy-four cents; for two thousand and eight, seventy-four thousand six hundred and ninety-eight dollars and fifty three cents; for two thousand and nine, sixty-nine thousand three hundred and ninety-four dollars and thirteen cents; in two thousand and ten, seventy thousand four hundred and one dollars and one cent. There will clearly be additional interest and late fees will be charged on those taxes. There is also a possibility that some of those years the taxes will be less because there is an entitled, in Missouri law, it, that you can allocate the miles from, flown in state and out of state, we may be able to allocate miles for the last year of those years. And I’d be happy to answer more questions about that, um, but to be on the safe side we are going to send in checks today to the St. Louis County Director of Revenue in the amounts that I just specified. And if in fact we have overpaid, um, that [garbled] be fine. Uh, if, and, and, those taxes can be applied to the taxes we’ll owe at the end of this year. If in fact, um, uh, we, we, uh, and obviously we have to calculate, and we’ll even try to calculate before we’re told what the interest and penalties are. Uh, typically this is a three step process. You send in the report to the assessor, the assessor then has you fill out documentation to go to the state tax commission, the state tax commission makes an estimate and it is sent back. In this instance I thought it was more important, since I discovered this literally, um, just a matter of a few days ago that we go as quickly as possible and try to acknowledge the mistake up front and get the money in as quickly as possible that has been owed.

I want to reiterate, um, that there is no attempt to evade the plane because the State of Missouri, um, Sunset Cove, has filed remittances every single month on sales tax. It, it, this is just a mistake which, as I said, I take responsibility for.

Let me finally say, I have convinced my husband to sell the damn plane. He has hired a broker and I can tell you I will not be setting foot on the plane ever again. Uh, I know what people are gonna think about this ’cause I know exactly what I would think. How in the world does something like this happen? Ultimately, the problem is, I didn’t do what I should have done. I should have been the one to take responsibility and check and make sure that it had been done properly. And, and that it was handled with the appropriate documentation. Uh, and I am being very open about my failure to do that, um, and hope that the fact that we have done this review and determined, um, that these taxes wer
e not paid, while some were paid that were supposed to be paid, there were others that were not paid. And with that, I’ll be happy to answer your questions…

The transcript(s) of media questions and Senator McCaskill’s answers will follow in subsequent post(s).