With elections upon us, and the unpleasant prospects of large tax increases in 2013, we think that our first blog should examine the Number One Tax Shelter in America: running for and holding elected office. The bald facts are simple: a Citizen can accumulate cash for the sole purpose of promoting his own self-interest, securing a job with above average compensation, as well as perquisites unavailable to the voters who may put him in office - - and all that money is collected in a political campaign that is free of federal and Massachusettts income tax. And if this Citizen should lose the election, he still gets to keep the cash, and use it to help other candidates or office-holders. And if he wins, he likewise may give this money to other candidates as a gesture of goodwill: Purchased Goodwill.
This is really a great deal. Get the money tax free, spend it promoting oneself. For the losers, there is a big consolation prize: a lot of publicity has been purchased for other endeavors. Name recognition for free. You can end up on FoxNews as a paid commentator - - just ask Governor Palin. And if the Harvard Law School Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren should lose to Senator Brown, she likewise will only have added to her net worth, her “brand”. Tax free campaign donations propelled her to the DNC, after all.
Thank you Donors! Thank you Taxpayers!
This is called protecting free-speech. That's the theory - - that if this money were taxable a Citizen would be discouraged from seeking elective employment. Let's look at a recipient of an endowment from an arts foundation. The endowment is fully taxable. If you are an artist and are offered $100,000, would you repudiate the gift because 35% would go to taxes? Just askin'. . .
Or would you be happy with $65,000 and silently bless the American taxpayers who have given you free money?
We simply don't believe that the taxation of political contributions would cease the striving for elective office. And that incremental tax revenue will find no shortage of claimants, will it?
We think that campaign contributions should be taxable at all levels of giving, just as corporate profits are taxed twice. Thus, if a citizen gives $1,000 to a political party or a registered committee, the $1,000 should be subject to federal and Commonwealth income tax at the highest rate. And then, when that organization gives some cash to a candidate, the candidate should likewise pay income tax at the highest individual rate. And so forth. At every level of receipt, it is taxed.
And while we're at it, why not impose Massachusetts sales tax at 6.25%? Or go for a higher rate? Maybe 9%? The Legislature can change the law to tax anything at any rate.
If we want to rid campaigns of money, then tax it. Just like tobacco. Bad for the health of the nation? Tax it.
Let's be clear: campaign contributions are accretions to the intangible net worth of the recipient. That is the classic definition of income. Further, a “brand” has been created, and this too has value. And to the extent that this has been done free of income tax, this is another entitlement courtesy of the American taxpayer.
The chances of any politician sponsoring a bill either in Washington or on Beacon Hill to tax campaign contributions is as likely as the Sox winning the pennant in 2012. But we think that this entitlement should be recognized as another “rent” conferred upon the ruling class by taxpayers. And the ruling class should be prepared to debate and defend their privileges.
What say you Barney? Would taxation of your campaign cash have dissuaded your from three decades in office?
How about initiative and referendum for this on the ballot?