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Watchdog Files Ethics Complaint on McCain’s Gambling

An anecdote about a 2000 visit to a casino, recounted in a recent article in The New York Times that examined Sen. John McCain’s ties to the gambling industry, may have inadvertently created an ethics problem for the GOP presidential nominee. From The Times:

Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.

The problem?

According to a non-partisan government watchdog, McCain never reported the winnings from this and other gambling excursions in his annual financial disclosure statements, as required by federal law and Senate rules.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint today with the Senate Ethics Committee, calling for an investigation into whether McCain, reportedly an avid gambler, broke the law. You can view the complaint here (PDF). From a CREW press release:

The Senate Ethics Manual states that winnings, such as those derived from a lottery or a game show, are gifts that must be reported as income. Knowingly filing a false report is a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.

Nevertheless, Sen. McCain reported no income derived from gambling on the personal financial disclosure reports he filed with the Senate between 2000 and 2007.

In contrast, other members of Congress, including Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) all reported winnings on their financial disclosure reports.

CREW’s executive director Melanie Sloan stated, “Given Sen. McCain’s long history of gambling, the fact that he never included gambling income on his financial disclosure forms suggests he is either the unluckiest gambler ever or, more likely, he failed to report the income.”

Presumably, a failure to report his winnings to the IRS would also be problematic, as all gambling income is fully taxable.

Obviously, I don’t know if McCain won any money, but a quick look at Line 21 on his 2006 and 2007 tax returns — available on his campaign Website — reveals that he did not report any “other income” in either year.

I’d suggest the IRS look into the matter, but I’m afraid I’d be risking a Nixonian “random audit” should McCain win in November.

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