Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s recent posting of her 2015 federal income tax returns on her Senate website contained an entry that is a bit out of the ordinary: a $457,200 cash gift to her and her husband from her British in-laws.
Though legal, its size is unusual, more than the $253,924 in combined salaries reported to the Internal Revenue Service by the New York Democrat and her husband, Jonathan, a business and financial analyst.
Gillibrand’s spokesman, Marc Brumer, said the money was given on Feb. 13, 2015, by her husband’s parents, semiretired executive Sydney Gillibrand and his wife, Angela, who live in London.
Brumer declined to say why they gave the cash or what the senator and her family did with it. Gillibrand also declined to comment.
Brett Kappel, an elections attorney in Washington, D.C., called the gift “very unusual, but legal as long as it wasn’t given specifically to fund the candidate’s campaign.” He noted that the money could be part of the elderly couple’s estate planning. “Family money is very, very common in politics,” Kappel said.
Sydney Gillibrand, who serves on corporate boards, retired in 2004 as nonexecutive chairman of the British engineering firm AMEC, a lead contractor in Ground Zero cleanup after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Before that, he worked in many positions at British Aerospace, now known as BAE, from 1950 until he stepped down in 1995 as vice chairman of the board.
In Kirsten Gillibrand’s first run for public office in 2006, her opponent, Rep. John Sweeney, accused her of “profiteering” from the Iraq War — despite her opposition to it — after she disclosed that she had $50,000 to $100,000 in stock in BAE Systems, a part of BAE.
Her press aide said at the time that Jonathan received the stock as part of his 1998 retirement from BAE, where he had worked on a factory floor making commercial aircraft. The aide didn’t disclose that his father also worked at BAE.
Jonathan and Kirsten Gillibrand paid no tax on each of their $228,600 cash gifts because the U.S. does not tax recipients, experts said.
In their 2015 federal income tax filing, the Gillibrands reported paying $76,344 in taxes on a total income of $326,233, an effective tax rate of 23.4 percent.
Gillibrand, whose Senate salary is $174,000, also received $75,000 in royalties for her 2014 book, “Off the Sidelines.”
Her husband made $89,077 in 2015. He worked for GBS Holdings LLC, a firm that develops facilities for medical procedures, Brumer said, adding he’s moving to a new job.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his wife, Iris Weinshall, also posted their income tax filings, on his Senate website.
They reported paying $130,476 in federal taxes on $489,622 in total income, for an effective tax rate of 26.6 percent. Schumer earns $174,000 as a U.S. senator. His wife, the New York Public Library’s chief operating officer, made $333,334.
Gillibrand’s and Schumer’s disclosures come as Democrats demand that federal tax filings be made public by presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has a wide range of business interests.
Trump has declined to release his filings because he said he is being audited by the IRS. Public officials are not required to post their tax filings, but it has become customary for presidential candidates to disclose theirs.