As the Romney campaign closes in on its vice presidential pick, it is considering a governor who holds more than $100,000 in royalty rights to Listerine mouthwash, another who accepted more than $123,000 in gifts and travel last year, and a Senator who is paying off loans on a band of pickup trucks.
Sometime in the next seven weeks, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will announce his running mate and the public vetting process will begin. Within 30 days of that announcement, the nominee must file a personal financial disclosure statement, and Romney is said to be going to great lengths to avoid the kind of unexpected revelations that turned up when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s finances were first released in October 2008.
That’s one reason party insiders say Romney will choose someone whose commitment to fiscal responsibility is clearly reflected in his personal finances.
Annual financial disclosure reports provide a detailed picture of the finances of Congressional lawmakers, but for the Republican governors Romney is said to be considering — Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bob McDonnell of Virginia and ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota — information is spotty.
All four states require public officials to declare financial interests, but the level of detail varies widely, and values of assets and liabilities are reported only in broad ranges, if at all. For example, the most recent filing for Pawlenty, who served as the governor of Minnesota until January 2011 and made a cameo in one of Romney’s first campaign videos, reveals a list of 28 securities, each of which is valued at more than $2,500. The state requires no further disclosure.
Christie, a former U.S. district attorney who became governor in 2010, appears to be the wealthiest in the group, with assets in excess of $1 million, including at least $100,000 in Listerine royalty rights, according to a May filing. The figure does not account for two blind trusts, which yielded at least $40,000 in income last year. (That information would become public if he were chosen for the Republican ticket.) Christie estimated he was worth $3.8 million in a 2009 interview with the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
Christie and his wife, who earned a salary of at least $250,000 as vice president at the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald, reported income of just less than $500,000 in 2011, only a touch more than they brought in the year before, according to 2010 tax returns, which he released October 2011. The couple’s Morris County home, which is mortgaged for at least $250,000, is worth more than $500,000.
McDonnell, whose 21-year career in Virginia state government began in 1992 when he was elected to the Legislature, received more than $43,000 in gifts last year, including a $665 suit from J.Crew and more than $8,000 in lodging from security contractor MVM Inc., according to May filings. He also racked up more than $80,000 in travel expenses, including more than $68,000 in taxpayer-funded economic development trips to Boston, Chicago, Asia, Israel and France.
The governor earned at least $110,000 on three Virginia rental properties, the report shows. State ethics laws do not require him to disclose values of those properties, his home, retirement funds or any stocks valued less than $10,000.
Jindal reported at least $23,000 in income derived from 11 bank accounts and investments. The state does not require public officials to reveal the value of those assets, or mutual, educational or retirement funds.
Among Members of Congress said to be on Romney’s short list, Sen. Rob Portman is one of the wealthiest, according to a Roll Call review of recently filed personal financial disclosure forms. The Ohio Republican, who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget and U.S. trade representative under former President George W. Bush, had a minimum net worth of $6.72 million at the end of 2011, including at least $1.2 million in commercial real estate.
With Members’ disclosures, Roll Call subtracts the total minimum value of all liabilities from the total minimum value of all assets to arrive at a minimum net worth.
The campaign has also said it’s vetting Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida freshman whose tea party bona fides could serve Romney well with the conservative base. Rubio is likely one of the poorest in the Senate, with at least $450,000 in mortgages on two Florida properties worth far less than when they were purchased at the height of the real estate boom.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), whose minimum net worth of $222,000 places her somewhere in the middle of the Congressional wealth spectrum, owes at least $50,000 in loans for equipment and vehicles related to her husband’s landscaping and snowplowing business.
And, unlike her colleagues, whose assets are often spread among retirement accounts, stocks, bonds and mutual funds, Ayotte appears to keep a large portion of her wealth — at least $100,000 — in a checking account.
The Romney campaign did not return Roll Call’s request for comment on this article.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.