BY JOHN FUND – “Let’s not get silly here.” That was Senator John Kerry’s response Friday to questions about his new $7 million yacht, Isabel, which last week was berthed in Rhode Island rather than in Mr. Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts. In doing so, Mr. Kerry will save almost $500,000 a year in taxes.
But the Massachusetts Senator’s office says the decision to base the yacht in Newport had everything to do with “long-term maintenance, upkeep and charter purposes” and nothing to do with tax avoidance. “We pay enormous taxes to the state of Massachusetts, and there is nothing illegal here,” Mr. Kerry told a Boston TV station.
No, but there’s a smell of hypocrisy. In addition to sailing around the tax issue, Mr. Kerry chose to build his boat in New Zealand at a time when Bay State boat builders are having trouble keeping their work force employed. “I’m confident that anything constructed in New Zealand could be constructed here in the state,” Gregory Egan, who owns the Crosby Yacht Yard in Osterville, told the Boston Herald. Others noted that the Isabel was specially designed to be piloted without a crew — letting Mr. Kerry scrimp on employment costs and payroll taxes.
It sounds like a perfect storm of political controversy for Mr. Kerry. The senator is the main sponsor of a bill that would squeeze U.S. lifestyles by cutting back on carbon emissions. At the same time, he has decided to treat himself to a new yacht, built overseas and carefully berthed outside the state he represents. Mr. Kerry is lucky he isn’t up for re-election this year. An opponent anywhere near as serious as Scott Brown, Mr. Kerry’s new GOP colleague, could have given him electoral heartburn.
JOHN FUND IS A COLUMNIST WITH THE WALL STREET JOURNAL