Is Sen. Olympia Snowe One Of The 375 Maine Millionaires She Voted To Protect?

October 20, 2011 2:51 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Sen. Olympia Snowe

When Sen. Olympia Snowe explained her vote against the Senate jobs bill last week, she identified only one provision of the bill she disagreed with: the surcharge on taxpayers who earn more than $1 million in adjusted gross income. According to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, only one-tenth of one percent of Maine taxpayers would be affected by the surcharge — that's only about 375 people. While the rest of Snowe's constituents struggle to survive bleak economic conditions, 375 Mainers are lucky to have a senator on their side.

But Snowe's opposition to legislation that would create two million new jobs and cut taxes for virtually all Maine income tax payers simply because it included a small tax increase for only 375 Mainers raises an obvious question: Would Sen. Snowe have been one of those 375?

With an estimated net worth between $12.6 million and $44.7 million, Olympia Snowe is the tenth-richest member of the Senate. She makes $174,000 a year as a U.S. senator. Though Snowe's most recent official financial disclosure form does not list specific income for her husband, John McKernan, it does indicate two income sources that likely push the couple over the $1 million threshold. 

McKernan serves as chairman of the board of directors of Education Management Corporation, which is being sued for fraud by the U.S. Department of Justice and four states in connection with $11 billion in financial aid it received between 2003, when McKernan was chief executive, and 2011. Education Management's corporate filings describe a "McKernan Agreement" under which he is paid an annual salary of $330,000, plus a target bonus of $412,500. McKernan is also a member of the board of directors of BorgWarner, which paid him $328,000 in cash and stock awards in 2010, and he serves on the board of directors of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

Snowe's vote against a jobs bill that would greatly help Maine simply because it would raise taxes on about 375 of the state's richest residents doesn't make much sense — but it's certainly easier to understand if Snowe and her husband are among those fortunate few.

Ed. note: This post has been updated to reflect new information about the number of taxpayers in Maine subject to the surcharge.

Print