Guy Benson
In my piece analyzing the ten strongest chances for Republican Senate gains in 2012, I listed Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.) seat as a tier two pickup opportunity.  It might be time to give her a target tier upgrade:

Sen. Claire McCaskill is selling the personal plane that has caused her turbulence in recent weeks after POLITICO revealed she used taxpayer money to cover the cost of political travel.

The first-term Democrat said she was very happy she was able to convince her husband to "sell the damn plane."  In a conference call Monday afternoon, McCaskill revealed that after her own review of the plane's records, she had not paid personal property taxes on the aircraft over the past four years...

McCaskill said she would be sending a check for $287,273 to St. Louis County Monday for the back taxes she owed between 2007 and 2010.  She also said she had campaign lawyers looking into the flights to determine if any more in-kind contributions needed to be reported to be in compliance.


Making matters worse for McCaskill is her high-profile advocacy on behalf of governmental transparency and accountability, leaving the Senate freshman wide open to charges of hypocrisy.  The NRSC has been hounding McCaskill on this developing scandal for days and has released another scathing statement following today's damaging revelation:

“Can Missouri voters even believe anything Senator McCaskill says anymore?  This is the third time in less than two weeks that she’s had to change her story about her private plane, and she only admitted any of her wrongdoing once she got caught by the media.  Now, millionaire Claire McCaskill wants to simply write yet another big check and hope people won’t ask any more questions.  It’s high time for McCaskill to finally live up to the same standards of transparency and accountability that she demands of others by immediately releasing her shell company tax records.”

The Republican Senate electoral arm also produced a brutal video highlighting news clips about this story -- including a particularly damning snippet of a 2006 campaign speech in which McCaskill urged voters to reject her at the polls if "her walk doesn't match her talk" on accountability:



McCaskill says she's not sure how her apparent ethical lapses and confirmed tax evasion might affect her re-election chances:

Asked if this would hurt her reelection bid, McCaskill replied, "I don't know, I've tried to handle this like I handle anything else," citing her advocacy for transparency and accountability in Congress.

McCaskill expressed remorse and contrition throughout the half hour conference call and said the entire episode has made her "sick to her stomach."


McCaskill insists her failure to pay more than a quarter of a million dollars in taxes was nothing more than a "mistake."  Missouri voters may soon have the opportunity to decide whether electing her in the first place was also a collective mistake.  I say "may" because if this story gets any worse, I wouldn't be surprised to see yet another Senate retirement ahead of the 2012 campaign cycle.

Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography