Senate Has at Least 42 Millionaires

Posted June 13, 2003 at 6:34pm

At least 42 Senators — including three Democratic presidential hopefuls — are millionaires, according to 2002 financial disclosure forms released last week, and 10 percent of the chamber is worth upwards of $10 million each.

Roll Call’s analysis of the Senators’ personal financial portfolios showed that nearly half of the nation’s 100 Senators had a net worth of at least $1 million last year, marking a high tide for millionaires in the chamber.

In 2002, by comparison, exactly 40 Senators rang in with at least $1 million in net assets, steadily rising from 34 in 1996 and 28 in 1994.

However, the imprecise nature of the disclosure forms, which were filed May 15 and released to the public on Friday, make it likely that the actual number of millionaires is significantly higher.

In estimating the value of their assets — whether it’s stock holdings or rental property — lawmakers must mark a range of values such as $15,001-$50,000, $100,001-$250,000 or $1,000,001-$5,000,000.

The cutoff is “over $50,000,000,” meaning that a lawmaker with property worth $200 million would have to disclose the asset at only the $50 million or above level.

To give lawmakers the benefit of the doubt, Roll Call employs a formula that estimates the net worth by combining minimum assets with minimum liabilities.

Twenty-four Republicans and 18 Democrats made the cut this year, and eight of the millionaires are women.

Heart surgeon-turned-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is in the upper echelons of the club, with a minimum net worth of at least $15.1 million comprised in part from blind trusts valued somewhere between $6.5 million and $31 million.

The Majority Leader also lists investments in everything from Innovative Orthodontics Products in Lubbock, Texas, to Laguna Vista, a residential development in Granbury, Texas.

Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.) landed several notches lower in Roll Call’s survey with approximately $1.8 million and investments in everything from patented mining claims to school bonds.

Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), by comparison, is a man of relatively modest means. His minimum net worth is $401,000, with his largest assets being a Crestar Bank account worth between $100,001 and $250,000, a credit union account valued between $50,001 to $100,000 and a Fidelity investment fund worth between $50,001 and $100,000.

Three Democrats gunning for their party’s presidential nomination easily landed the millionaire title.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D), in fact, leads the pack. The bulk of his wealth — his net worth on paper is at least $169 million — stems from the assets of his ketchup heiress wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) is still reaping the rewards of a successful career as a trial lawyer and is worth at least $12.3 million. His largest assets are a qualified blind trust and a note receivable from his Senate campaign committee, both valued at between $5 million and $25 million.

His forms also reveal that Edwards is one of a slew of Senators with book contracts from Simon & Schuster, though his deal is far less than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) $8 million pact.

Edwards received his advance of $7,500 last year for the book, which is due out next fall. Edwards has promised that any proceeds from his literary endeavor will benefit the Wade Edwards Foundation, a nonprofit organization set up in 1996 in memory of the Senator’s son, who was killed in a car accident.

Another presidential contender, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), has an estimated net worth of nearly $7.2 million. His largest asset is real estate in Miami Lakes, Fla., valued at between $5 million and $25 million.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) appears to be the only Senator running for president who cannot claim millionaire status, although he’s not doing badly.

The former vice presidential pick of Al Gore (D) disclosed nearly $400,000 in assets and raked in several thousand dollars for his book about the campaign, “An Amazing Adventure.” His wife, Hadassah, earned close to $100,000 in speaking fees last year.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) came in a relatively close second to Kerry thanks to his qualified blind trust valued at more than $50 million, and stock in the Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball franchise, also worth more than $50 million.

While Clinton enjoys the success of her new tome, her financial disclosure form revealed that she’s got other reasons to smile. With roughly an $8 million fortune — if you off-set the former first couple’s legal debts with her famous husband’s exorbitant speaking fees — the Senator appears to be sitting pretty.

Former President Bill Clinton raked in upwards of $9.5 million last year giving speeches around the world. That certainly helped pay down their legal debts, which as of Dec. 31, 2002, were only about $1.5 million.

Several other Senators narrowly missed the million-dollar cutoff mark.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) listed a fortune of at least $804,000 — not quite enough to push him into the club. Similarly, Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) listed just over a million in assets, but a debt in the form of a mortgage on a rental property bumped him just below the cutoff point.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) also came close, but arrived at a net-worth figure of $853,000 because he still owes $500,000-plus on a 15-year mortgage on a building and land in Las Vegas.

Other lawmakers managed to hold on to their fortunes, despite hitting upon rough times in recent years following the dot-com crash.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), whose net worth was once estimated to be as much as $40 million thanks to her stock in the Seattle software company RealNetworks, is currently worth only about $1.8 million on paper because of the stock’s decline and personal loans to her campaign.

Her largest holdings are her RealNetworks stock, valued at between $1 million and $5 million, and a note receivable from her 2000 Senate campaign, also valued at between $1 million and $5 million.

Cantwell has made significant progress in recent years in whittling down her personal and campaign debt. She paid off a $500,000-plus loan last year and in 2002 carried about $260,000 in outstanding loan balances.

The annual disclosure reports also provide an interesting glimpse into the lifestyles of Washington’s rich and famous.

For instance, Sen. Kit Bond’s (R-Mo.) forms provide a rundown of all the wedding gifts he and his bride received last year upon their happy occasion, all of which were pre-approved by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Frist and his wife gave the Bonds an “antique bread board and knife,” while millionaire Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his wife, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, gave the couple “silver serving pieces.”

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), meanwhile, is worth nearly $3 million on paper, with his largest asset being cattle in Ignacio, Colo., that is valued at between $1 million and $5 million. Campbell’s jewelry and furniture business, called Nighthorse Inc., is worth between $250,000 and $500,000.

Paul Kane and Sarah Bouchard contributed to this report.