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Now voters get to debate candidates' tax returns

After the barrage of debates and media coverage, we still can't seem to catch a clear glimpse into the hearts of presidential candidates John McCain, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

So let's peek instead at their money via their just-filed federal tax returns. Their returns may shed no more clarifying light into the trio's true nature, but hey, it can't hurt to take a different take on the people vying to lead a powerful country confronted with some enormous issues.

John McCain: The Republican senator from Arizona has not been the most forthcoming in disclosing his household income. But Friday, he released 2007 and 2006 federal tax returns — just his, not the returns (kept separate by a prenuptial agreement) of his fabulously richer wife.

Last year's return shows personal wages of just under $300,000, book royalties from such works as Faith of My Fathers (money said to go to charity), Social Security (at 71, he's been eligible for years), $17,700 in alimony he paid out to his first wife … and almost nothing from investments in either interest or dividends. Whatever investments the couple may privately enjoy clearly are not in his name and not on his return.

Which brings us to Cindy, McCain's wife since 1980, who inherited a multimillion-dollar business in Phoenix called Hensley that brags of a "60 percent" market share. Of what? Beer. It's the third-largest Anheuser-Busch wholesaler in the nation — which likely means a money machine.

Bottom line? Seeing McCain's 1040 is helpful, but it's not much more than grabbing the tail of a financial elephant and trying to guess the size of the beast.

McCain's (excluding his wife's) total taxes in 2007: $118,660.

Barack Obama: The Illinois senator pulled in $157,102 in salary while his wife added $103,633 as a hospital administrator at the University of Chicago. What provided the big leap in joint household income to $4.2-million last year was Obama's royalties from his books. That's about $1-million more than the couple made in 2006. In investments, the couple had a modest $1,400 in interest, yet reported no dividends.

The Obama household's charitable contributions came to $240,370 last year. Of that, $26,270 went to the Chicago parish of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the senator's controversial pastor.

Obama's 2007 taxes:

$1.4-million.

Hillary Clinton: Clinton tax returns are really a tale about how many millions Bill Clinton has managed to rack up in speaking and "advisory" fees since he left the White House in 2000 — a year when the couple reported adjusted gross income of just $357,026. The 2007 return is a bit higher: $20.4-million.

From 2000 through 2007, here are some cumulative Clinton stats. Gross income: $109-million, made up of Hillary's Senate salary ($1-million) and book income ($10.5-million), plus Bill's income from speeches ($52-million), books ($29.6-million), fees ($15.5-million) from Yucaipa Global Holdings (supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle's investment fund) and presidential pension ($1-million).

Clinton's 2007 taxes — tops

of the three: $5.1-million.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

Now voters get to debate candidates' tax returns 04/19/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 20, 2008 11:33am]

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