Flaunting Your Assets

John McCain’s released two years of tax returns today to little fanfare. We learn that he earned $405,000in 2007. We learn that he’s giving his ex-wife $17,000 a year in alimony. Whatwe don’t learn, though, is how much he’s getting from his current wife. That’sbecause the returns don’t include the assets of Cindy McCain, whose beerfortune is estimatedat more than $100 million —a reminder that McCain would be the firstpresident to have signed a prenuptial agreement.

The decision not to combine their assets has had pros andcons. On the one hand, McCain was able to distance himself from her money whenconflict-of-interest issues arose during his first House campaign in 1982. (He took a salary from Hensley,Cindy’s father’s company, for public relations work.) But these days, there’s amajor downside: He can’t spend her money on the campaign trail. Normally acandidate can spend up to half of the assets from a joint account, if thespouse agrees. Had the McCains decided to fully merge their assets threedecades ago, he would probably be having much less trouble on thefinancial end .

Then there’s the moral aspect. In a race that has featurethe thrice-married Rudy Giuliani, McCain’s marital situation doesn’t seem particularlycontroversial. But some Americans might look askance at a prenup, commonlyconsidered leaving the door open for divorce. McCain is already on rockyfooting with so-called values voters, given his stance on issues like embryonicstem cell research. (James Dobson in particular is famouslydispleased .) His marital arrangement isn’t likely to endear him either.