Mitt-baiting Rep. Levin: Out-of-touch in Martha’s Vineyard?

Henry Payne Editor, TheMichiganView.com
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Michigan Representative Sander Levin has played a key role in the Democratic Party’s class-warfare campaign against Mitt Romney this year. As the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, the 15-term Democrat has drafted legislation with the singular purpose of exposing every aspect of Michigan-native-turned-Massachusetts-millionaire Romney’s financial life in order to caricature him as an out-of-touch one-percenter.

But it seems that Levin himself prefers rubbing shoulders with Massachusetts’ wealthy elite.

A review of the 81-year-old millionaire congressman’s four residences (Romney also has four) finds a $1.1 million summer home on one of America’s most exclusive islands — Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts (see photo).

Union-friendly Levin has devoted his recent years in Washington to incentivizing the insourcing of jobs from China to Michigan — yet when he and his late wife decided to build a second home in the early ’90s, they outsourced construction jobs to the chic Vineyard. Michigan has one of the most beautiful resort beachfronts in the country “up north” on the Lake Michigan coast, where many Detroiters have second homes. In the congressman’s defense, a Levin spokesman says Levin has invested in real estate properties around Metro Detroit.

But at a time when Levin and his party have made class warfare the cornerstone of their fall presidential campaign, his Vineyard lifestyle seems to fail the very “out-of-touch one-percenter” test Democrats have set for political office.

Levin’s use of legislation to influence the presidential campaign illustrates the comprehensiveness of the Democratic class-warfare game plan. The party showcased speaker after speaker at its Charlotte convention to mock Romney’s lifestyle — including Levin’s fellow Michiganian, former Governor Jennifer Granholm, who jeered the $55,000 car elevator in Romney’s La Jolla, California home.

“In Romney’s world, the cars get the elevator; the workers get the shaft,” said Granholm to cheers from the Charlotte Convention floor. “[Mitt Romney has] made lots of money. But how did he make that fortune, and at whose expense?”

Meanwhile, Sander Levin from Macomb County, Michigan (median home value: $157,000) owns a $1.1 million second home on one of America’s most exclusive islands at taxpayers’ expense — that is, his $174,000 congressman’s salary.

Levin has drafted legislation in the House forcing presidential candidates (read Romney) to release 10 years of tax returns and disclose information tailored to root out the ex-Bain Capital chief’s financial background — including the “location, value, and economic purpose of each offshore account” the candidate may have.

Levin has disclosed his own tax returns for the last 10 years, but asks no similar sacrifice from his fellow congressmen. This is all about Romney. “I think as to Governor Mitt Romney, the precedent is very clear. There is no such precedent as to members of Congress, there is to presidential candidates,” he told C-SPAN.

Perhaps Levin will invite Romney down from his 2,100-square-foot suburban Boston pad to talk it over at Levin’s 3,200-square-foot island retreat.

Henry Payne is editor of TheMichiganView.com and editorial cartoonist for The Detroit News. A veteran contributor to publications from The Wall Street Journal to the National Review, he can be reached at hpayne@detnews.com.