Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lifestyles of West Virginia's Raese and Infamous

By Steve Benen

John Raese, the Republican Senate hopeful in West Virginia, was asked this week about his background. "I made my money the old-fashioned way, I inherited it," Raese boasted. "I think that's a great thing to do." He went on to say "a key part" of his platform is lowering inheritance taxes on multi-millionaires.

In a state where the median household income is less than $38,000, it seemed like an odd thing for a Senate candidate to say.

Nevertheless, with Raese, the heir to the Greer Industries fortune, crowing about all the money he's inherited, there's renewed interest in the Republican nominee's finances.
Raese leads a lavish lifestyle that's included over 15 cars, boats and motorcycles, a home in Florida where his family lives full-time and where, records show, he paved the driveway with marble in 2008 as the economy was nosediving.
The fact of Raese's family living in another state fulltime is almost certain to come up on the campaign trail.
Elizabeth and John Raese have a nearly 7,000-square-foot home, one where in 2008 -- shortly after the first of the TARP package was being allocated -- the Raeses put in permits to repave their marble driveway with fresh pink stone. They've also claimed homeowners' exemptions, which are available only to Florida state residents, including a $25,000 one this year, according to Palm Beach County property records, because of his wife's residence.
By all accounts, Raese's home is in Florida, where his wife lives and his kids went to school, and where he frequently visits by way of his private jet.

Raese isn't suspected of having done anything untoward with his riches, but stories like these create a narrative that will likely undermine his outreach to struggling West Virginia families.

To be sure, there's nothing wrong with being extremely wealthy, just as there's nothing wrong with getting rich by accepting an inheritance. West Virginia's senior senator, John Rockefeller (D), comes from a wealthy family, too.

The reason stories like these appear damaging, however, is two-fold. The first is that Raese's connection to West Virginia appears about as tenuous as Rick Santorum's connection to Pennsylvania in 2006 -- Santorum's home was in Virginia, just as Raese's home is in Florida. Voters tend to want officials representing them who actually live in their state.

The second is that Raese's extreme, inherited wealth has led him to believe he should fight for other rich people. Rockefeller may come from a wealthy family, but he's spent his career trying to create opportunities for those on the other end of the economic spectrum.

Raese is rich, and wants to go to the Senate to help people just like him. In one of the nation's poorest states, it's a bizarre pitch to take to voters.


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