Tim Middleton

Mutual Funds6/10/2008 12:01 AM ET

McCains: His-and-mostly-her money

The GOP candidate and his multimillionaire mate keep their finances separate. Their family would benefit from his plan to extend the Bush tax cuts (which the senator had earlier opposed).

By Tim Middleton

This is part of a two-part series on the candidates and their money. To read the other part, on Barack Obama, click here.

If Republican presidential hopeful John McCain knows much about handling money, you couldn't tell it from his campaign finance papers.

Aside from his Senate salary, a Navy pension and $177,111 in book royalties that he donated to charity, the Arizona senator finished 2007 with, at most, $115,000 in checking accounts and a money market fund, according to disclosures filed recently.

McCain's wife and children, however, have substantial wealth derived from her family's ownership of a successful beer distributorship.

In sum, McCain's disclosure pegs total household assets in the range of $24.6 million to $39.5 million.

The actual total is almost certainly considerably higher because Cindy McCain reports a dozen assets that are each worth more than $1 million, with no upper limit described. Candidates themselves must account within ranges such as $1 million to $5 million, $5 million to $25 million and so on to a maximum of more than $50 million.

McCain

John McCain

Similarly, Cindy McCain is required to disclose her salary on her husband's form only as more than $1,000. In fact, the heavily edited 2006 tax returns she recently released with great reluctance -- she first bristled publicly at the idea -- put her income that year at more than $6 million, $300,000 of that from her salary as the chairwoman of Hensley, which was founded by her father.

She hasn't yet filed her 2007 return, having received an extension.

John McCain's 2006 disclosure pegged the family's assets between $36.6 million and $53.4 million, so the McCains apparently had a better 2007 than Democratic rival Barack Obama and his wife. The Obamas nearly tripled their net worth in the past two years, but their income in 2007 was just more than $4 million. (For my column on Barack Obama's latest financial report, click here.)

John McCain's personal finances, though, are as seemingly austere as those of the soldier who spent five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp. The Chase credit card in his pocket has a credit limit of $15,000 (and an annual percentage rate of 25.99%). Cindy and one unidentified child have American Express cards with limits of up to half a million dollars.

Separate, not equal (financially)

Since John McCain signed a prenuptial agreement with his rich wife in 1980, they have maintained separate finances and filed separate tax returns. But naturally, he benefits from her wealth, presiding over a luxurious ranch in Arizona and often using her company's jet.

The disclosure reports assets held in the names of the McCains' children of between $5.3 million and $11.2 million.

Video on MSN Money

Jobs and the election (c) Eric Jacobson/Getty Images
How the job picture will shape the election
A discussion of how the jobs report will weigh in on the election, with Rea Hederman of The Heritage Foundation and Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute.

In recent months, Cindy McCain and the children have converted some assets to money market funds, including tax-free funds, to dispose of controversial holdings. One such sale, originally reported by The Associated Press, was of $2 million worth of two mutual funds, American Funds EuroPacific Growth (AEPGX) and American Funds Capital World Growth & Income (CWGIX), whose holdings include shares of companies doing business in war-ravaged Sudan.

Obama last year sold mutual funds for the same reason.

Continued: Incomes of both senators

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