Corporate Jets: The Next Political Punching Bag

John Travolta’s private jet sits on the tarmac at Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. (AP Photos/Alan Diaz) Original Filename: Bahamas_Travoltas_Son_FLAD106.jpg Diaz/AP

Watch for “corporate jets” to emerge as a hot-button campaign issue in the coming months as Democrats seize on a change in the tax code proposed in President Obama’s Jobs Act to paint their Republican rivals as supporting tax-cheating corporations.

It’s happening already. In an ad created for the Congressional campaign of Democrat David Weprin, a business jet is shown flying across the screen as a voiceover warns viewers: “Corporate executive Bob Turner lives the high life. While you struggle to pay the bills, Turner supports tax loopholes for corporations.”

There are a couple of problems with the spot, of course. One of the most glaring is that the skyline the jet was careening toward was New York City. The ad was shown on New York television stations days before the anniversary of 9/11, upsetting the families of some World Trade Center victims. Two hours after the the ad's release, it was removed from YouTube and hastily reedited so that that the jet was flying through clouds instead. You can watch the edited 30-second ad here.

Another is the dubious claim that Turner supports “tax loopholes” because he opposes the White House’s plan to alter the decades-old depreciation schedule for general aviation aircraft. The idea that an IRS rule which has been around for 25 years is being labeled a “loophole” would be laughable – except that the general public, generally speaking, doesn’t understand corporate tax rules well enough to know the difference. The depreciation schedule, by the way, is a separate issue from “bonus deprecation” for corporate aircraft, which expires this year.

In the end Weprin lost the special election to fill Rep. Anthony Weiner's vacant House seat, meaning at the very least other campaign strategists probably won’t be showing airplanes buzzing New York City skyscrapers in future ads – but I have no doubt they’ll continue to hammer the corporate jet/tax loophole angle. It’s too juicy a target to ignore.


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