Well, damn. My nose for news failed me yesterday. I was skimming the Boston Herald’s web site and spotted the story about John Kerry’s newest toy — a $7 million yacht — and considered blogging about it. But then I reconsidered.
But then the story practically went viral, leaving me standing on the pier as it sailed away.
The brief version: Kerry has bought himself a very, very expensive new boat. But it’s registered in Rhode Island, where the state has no taxes on luxury boats. Had he registered it in Massachusetts, he’d have to have paid over $430,000 in sales tax to the strapped state, as well as $70,000 a year in excise taxes. A very tidy hunk of change.
So, why did I give Lurch a pass, when I have shown him so little mercy in the past?
First up, the reason his spokesperson gave for the out-of-state registration was remotely plausible. The boat (built in New Zealand, by the way — it goes well with Kerry’s Italian racing motorcycle) is rather high maintenance, and it’s docked in a place that can take good care of it.
Further, Kerry — while technically the richest US Senator — isn’t really a rich SOB. Yes, he’s John Forbes Kerry, from THOSE Forbes, but his branch of the family wasn’t really that wealthy. He first got his taste for the high life when he married his first wife, a multi-millionaire, but she didn’t care for the life of a politician’s wife. Kerry chose his career over her, and they divorced. (Rumor has it that for a while, Kerry was sleeping in staffer’s homes and his car on Capitol Hill).
But then he found another wealthy woman to glom on to. Theresa Heinz was the widow of Republican Senator John Heinz, and she apparently liked being Mrs. Senator. And she was worth more than double than the first Mrs. Kerry.
Back to that boat, the “Isabel.” It’s technically not owned by Kerry, but by his trust. And that trust is full of the couple’s assets. So, in essence, Kerry’s boat was paid for by his second wife’s first husband’s money.
And now it turns out that Kerry might be on the hook after all. Massachusetts has some pretty clear rules on whether or not you can register your boat out of state — if it spends a certain amount of time docked in the Bay State, you better fork over the dough. And it seems that “Isabel” met that minimum.
The question now is, will Massachusetts press its claim? The state has a tradeoff to consider: half a million in cold hard cash, that it could really use, vs. embarrassing the state’s senior senator and one-time presidential nominee (good lord, I still have trouble believing that).
It reminds me of the time Ted Kennedy (D-Chivas) declared his DC-area home as his primary residence to take advantage of some tax breaks. When that came out, it could have cost him his Senate seat — the Constitution requires that he be a resident of the state he represents, and here he was on paper declaring he wasn’t. Instead, he was allowed to “amend” his tax filings and pay back the breaks he’d claimed.
One factor that might come into play is that the question ultimately falls under the purview of the state’s treasurer. And that office is currently held by Tim Cahill — who ran as a Democrat, but recently left the party and is running for governor as an independent. Should he choose to thoroughly burn his bridges with the Democrats, he conceivably could push the issue.
Poor John Forbes Kerry. The gigolo is such a buffoon, such a caricature, that some times it’s hard to get angry at him.
But then I look at the harm that idiot has caused, and how utterly un-self-aware he is, and it gets easier.
Register the boat in Massachusetts, Senator. You’ve always talked about how it’s the duty of the wealthy to pay their “fair share” of taxes, and this demonstrates your long-standing hypocrisy on such matters.
And note to self: don’t skip a chance to kick Kerry again. He really doesn’t deserve the break.