Politics & Policy

How Did He Make That Money?

Questions about the senator's book and art deals.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry reported $89,220 in royalties income from his campaign book A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America, according to his 2003 federal tax return. But sources in the publishing world say records of Bookscan, the sales tracking system, show that Kerry’s book sold just 2,212 copies in 2003–a figure which would not have resulted in nearly $90,000 in royalties income.

Bookscan does not record all book sales–it does not, for example, count sales in Wal-Mart stores–but experts say it usually tracks between 70 percent and 75 percent of a book’s total sales. If that is the case for Kerry’s book, then A Call to Service, which was published in October 2003, sold no more than about 3,000 copies last year.

Some publishing sources have wondered whether Kerry’s $89,220 was not royalty income, but was in fact an advance payment, which would have been made before (or at the time of) publication and would not have depended on sales figures. But a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, Michael Meehan, says Kerry’s arrangement did not work that way. “He didn’t receive an advance for the book,” Meehan says. “That’s his portion of the royalties from the book. He is paying the taxes on that and giving the rest to charity.” Kerry’s 2003 return lists charitable contributions of $43,735.

It is possible that A Call to Service sold large numbers of copies in places that were not recorded by Bookscan. Groups of Kerry supporters, for example, could have made bulk purchases of the book that would have boosted its sales.

Bookscan records indicate that Kerry’s book has sold 6,620 copies so far in 2004. Even if that figure were counted as 2003 sales, it would likely not have been sufficient to account for the $89,220 in royalty income that Kerry reported.

Meanwhile, spokesman Meehan is declining to say whether Kerry paid for his one-half interest in a 17-century Dutch painting that he and his wife, multimillionaire heiress Teresa Heinz Kerry, sold last year for $1,350,000.

The couple acquired the painting, by the seascape artist Adam Willaerts, in May 1996 for $1,000,000. They sold it in March 2003, recording a capital gain of $350,000. Kerry reported his half of that gain, $175,000, on his 2003 return. It was his largest single source of income that year; his Senate salary for 2003 was $147,818.

National Review Online asked Meehan whether Kerry, whose 1996 income was $143,795, actually paid $500,000 for his half of the painting in the original purchase.

“They jointly held the painting for investment purposes,” Meehan said.

Asked again whether Kerry paid for his half of the picture, Meehan answered, “I can tell you that it was Sen. Kerry’s and his wife’s painting that they held together since 1996.”

Teresa Heinz Kerry, whose late husband John Heinz was heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune, is thought to be worth between one-half and three-quarters of a billion dollars. Teresa Heinz Kerry and John Kerry file separate tax returns, and the campaign did not release any information about Mrs. Kerry’s income or taxes.

On another matter, the Kerry campaign complained about NRO’s description of the senator’s charitable giving over the years. An article yesterday included the fact that in 1995, Kerry reportedly had a taxable income of $126,179, and made charitable contributions of $0. The article also said that Kerry made relatively small charitable donations in the four years before that.

For the record, Kerry’s charitable contributions in recent years–he has just released his returns from 1999 to 2003–have been far higher. In his 2003 federal return, Kerry reported charitable donations of $43,735 on a total income of $395,338. In 2002, Kerry made charitable contributions of $18,600 on a total income of $144,091. In 2001, Kerry gave $22,370 to charity on a total income of $137,499. In 2000, he gave $19,221 on a total income of $137,012. And in 1999, he contributed $21,955 to charity on a total income of $140,928.

Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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