PEWAUKEE, WISC. -- "I'm the only person who doesn't get paid by taxpayers to campaign," said Mike Huckabee as he defended his weekend trip to the Cayman Islands where he will be paid to speak at a young leadership award banquet.
"Senator [Hillary] Clinton, Senator [Barack] Obama, Senator [John] McCain campaign every day and I'm paying for their campaigns," Huckabee told reporters who questioned the wisdom and rationale for leaving the trail.
"I'm paying because I'm a taxpayer and I have to pay for their Senate salaries even if they're not on duty."
Underscoring the point he was not "independently wealthy," he continued, "The taxpayers aren't paying a dime for me to campaign and I don't take anything from my campaign so I have to make a living. I do that through my writing, my speaking, I've been doing that for quite some time,"
Huckabee noted "nobody asked Senator McCain last weekend where he was last weekend when he was gone off the trail."
"I'm telling you where I'm going to be. I told you up front. There will be a few more times when I gotta go out and make sure I can make my mortgage payments just like everybody else has to do."
Huckabee said the "people of America who understand that you've got to work for a living and pay your bills recognize that that's exactly what I ought to be doing."
He said his opponents are "so used to having the taxpayers fund their day to day existence plus all the perks that go with that they probably never thought about the fact."
Huckabee used the opportunity to criticize the campaign finance reform bill McCain co-sponsored with Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc. that's particularly unpopular with local conservative talk show hosts.
"McCain-Feingold has been a really, really detrimental part of creating the kind of situation where if you're not personally wealthy, it's really tough to run for office. It's one reason I think that that bill has a horrible detriment to electoral politics in this country and it needs to be overhauled and overthrown."
Questioned again about his Cayman Islands trip, Huckabee said, "If Senator McCain and his colleagues in the Senate would like to pass a bill that would let other candidates get taxpayer-funded financing for their campaigns so they can get the same salaries as senators and congressman do, that'd be teriffic. But they didn't write the law that way...They don't have to reimburse that money back to the taxpayers."
Some people online have criticized his trip to the tax haven as self-contradictory (Huckabee spoke at the same conference in the Caymans a few years ago). Whenever he stumps about the "Fair Tax," Huckabee says corporations put their money in offshore bank accounts because of productivity taxes in the U.S.
Posed with this train of thought, Huckabee said, "First of all, let's get something straight. I'm not going to be taking money and parking it in the Cayman Islands. I'm going to get enough money to come back and pay about 40 percent in taxes on what I earn. There's a big difference. My money's coming back to the U.S. and the IRS is going to get most of it."
In a flyaway line that seemed more inflammatory than factual, Huckabee said, "I may go down there and visit one of those post office boxes where some of the other candidates have their money and maybe one of those banks and see what it looks like down there."