By Jim Popkin, NBC News Senior Investigative Producer
Well that didn't take long.
Just hours after releasing Sen. Joseph Biden's federal tax returns for the last 10 years, the Obama campaign began pressing Gov. Sarah Palin to follow suit. In an email to reporters titled "Nonpartisan Alaska Elected Official Calls on Gov. Palin to Release Tax Returns," the Obama campaign tried to put Gov. Palin on the defensive.
The email quoted Mat-Su Borough (Alaska) Assembly member Michelle Church as saying: “The important question today I guess would be, because Senator Biden released his tax returns, would be for Governor Palin to release her tax returns -- federal tax returns -- to show whether or not she actually paid federal income tax on those reimbursements for when she was living in her Wasilla home.”
Palin has not yet released her federal tax returns. Reporters have asked her to disclose her returns in part to determine whether she paid taxes on the $16,951 in per diem payments she received for working out of her home in Wasilla.
As for Biden, his returns are, well, humdrum. Biden has boasted on the campaign trail about being one of the poorest U.S. Senators, and his returns show modest wages--compared to some of the well-heeled titans on the Hill.
Biden and his wife, Jill, reported gross income of $215,432 in 1998 and their income stays roughly in the same ballpark for the next decade. His highest grossing year was 2005, when the Bidens reported total income of $321,379. That figure included $81,250 from the Sterling Lord literary agency.
In 2007, the most recent year available, the Bidens reported gross income of $319,853. By contrast, Sen. John Kerry had a maximum net worth of $313 million, according to a review by the Center for Responsive Politics.
One odd note: Biden's charitable giving is not exactly blockbuster. In 1998, for example, he reported just $195 in charitable gifts (on income of more than $215,000.) The next year he gave $120. The most he's given in one year was $995, on income that exceeded $319,000.
Biden's spokesman said the vice presidential contender released his returns to bring back accountability to government: “The last eight years have brought Americans' faith in their government to its lowest point in over thirty years. The only answer is to change the way we do business in Washington. That starts with something as simple as transparency. That's why Senator Biden is releasing his tax returns for the last 10 years.”