The federal government paid nearly $40 million dollars to Claire McCaskill’s husband’s businesses her first five years in office as Missouri Senator. During that time McCaskill has had influence over federal policy that has directly affected her family’s income.
Missouri royalty – The rest of the country has suffered but Claire McCaskill and her husband Joseph Shepard have done very well these past five years.
There are renewed calls for Democrat McCaskill to release her tax returns.
Businesses affiliated with the husband of Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill have received almost $40 million in federal subsidies for low-income housing developments during her first five years in office, though it appears only fraction of that has made it to the family’s bank accounts, according to an Associated Press analysis.
McCaskill’s Republican challenger, Rep. Todd Akin, says the federal payments should be a cause for concern among voters. He’s attempting to portray the Democratic senator’s family as a prime beneficiary of government largesse.
“There is a conflict of interest and a breach of trust with the citizens of our state,” Akin said in an interview with the AP.
McCaskill campaign spokesman Caitlin Legacki called such assertions “flat-out wrong.”
There is no evidence that McCaskill personally routed the money to her husband’s businesses. But she voted for some – and against other – bills that funded the federal housing and agriculture departments, which in turn provide subsidies to businesses with federal contracts to provide low-income housing.
The AP reviewed five years’ worth of federal personal financial disclosure statements filed by McCaskill, which list more than 300 “affordable housing” businesses in which her husband, Joseph Shepard, had at least a partial ownership during the time she has been in office. At least one-third of those businesses also appear to be listed as recipients of federal payments in an online government database that tracks spending.
The firms affiliated with Shepard appear to have received about $39 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service or the Department of Housing and Urban Development between 2007 – when McCaskill took office – and the end of 2011. According to McCaskill’s financial reports, Shepard earned an income of between about $400,000 and $2.6 million from those businesses in the years in which they received government payments.
McCaskill’s campaign declined to make the senator available for an interview about the federal payments and – except for Legacki’s brief statement that Akin’s assertion was wrong – also declined to let campaign staff participate in an on-the-record interview. But the campaign offered a variety of reasons why the payments pose no conflict of interest, including the fact that McCaskill opposed some of the funding bills and that those she supported also included appropriations for a wide variety of government programs.
The campaign said the vast majority of the housing subsidy contracts were initiated before McCaskill became a senator, although Shepard invested in some of them after she was elected and others were renewed during her term in office. The subsidies are intended to cover the gap between the rent paid by the tenant and the value of the housing unit as determined by the federal government. Consequently, much of the subsidy goes to the owners’ operating costs, such as mortgage payments or facility maintenance, the campaign said. Were Congress to not fund the subsidies, the federal government would be defaulting on its obligations, the campaign said.
Akin said McCaskill could have abstained from voting on bills that funded agencies involved in low-income housing developments.
But McCaskill then could have been open to accusations that she shunned her congressional duties – an assertion she has made against Akin for missing numerous House votes during his Senate campaign.
“She has to vote for or against appropriation bills – that’s what the citizens of Missouri hire her to do,” said George Connor, head of the political science department at Missouri State University. But he added: “It seems to me that she has influence over federal policy that has directly benefited her husband.”
McCaskill ranks as one of the wealthiest members in Congress.
And after five years as Missouri Senator, she’s even richer.