Harman Tops Issa in Net Worth, Disclosures Say

Posted June 15, 2005 at 6:53pm

Financial disclosure reports released Wednesday show that the House has a new claimant for the title of richest Member, that Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) continues to run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills and that the Democratic leadership is richer than its GOP counterparts.

While a couple dozen Members, including Rep. and Senate candidate Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), were granted extensions in order to file their reports at later dates, the thousands of pages of documents provide a snapshot of the the financial holdings of hundreds of lawmakers.

The competition for richest Member came down to two Californians, Reps. Jane Harman (D) and Darrell Issa (R). It was close, but Harman appears to have won out in the end.

Harman is worth at least $128 million, according to her report, which like the others covers 2004. With the retirement of former Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.), Harman takes over the title of richest Member.

Harman, an attorney, is married to Sidney Harman, founder of Harman International Industries, which makes high-quality stereo equipment including JBL, Infinity and Harman Kardon. Sidney Harman holds stock and stock options worth at least $100 million.

The California Democrat and ranking member on the Intelligence Committee also has an interest in several trust funds that hold tens of millions of dollars in assets. They provide her a healthy income, running into hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, at a minimum.

As with the Senate financial-disclosure forms released Tuesday, the forms submitted by House Members only disclose a broad range of assets, so it is difficult to determine Harman’s exact worth. In all likelihood it could be far higher.

Issa is number two at just over $121 million, with much of his wealth tied up in real estate. Issa is the co-founder of a lucrative car-alarm company.

Among the other richest Members are Reps. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), who was worth at least $60 million, and Charles Taylor (R-N.C.), whose assets are valued at more than $55 million. Taylor has come under fire from government watchdog groups following his purchase of a Russian banking operation in 2003.

The financial picture for party leaders was not quite so bright, with the exception of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose net worth is in excess of $16 million.

DeLay, who faced an ethics probe in 2004 and is expecting more legal scrutiny this year, reported owing more than $135,000 in legal bills to three law firms that represent him in Washington and Austin. DeLay’s legal defense fund took in more than $439,000 last year to help defray those costs. Roughly $200,000 of that total came from the re-election campaigns or leadership PACs of other House Republicans.

The monetary help that DeLay got for his legal bills far exceeded that received by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), who is the target of a House ethics investigations and long-running legal battle over his role in handling an illegally recorded 1997 conversation between House GOP leaders.

McDermott owes between $15,000 and $50,000 to the law firm Kirkland and Ellis. His legal defense fund took in $21,350 last year, with $4,500 of that total coming from his own re-election committee.

DeLay also reported owning between $50,000 and $100,000 of ExxonMobil stock, as well as personal savings and money market accounts worth more than $30,000.

DeLay’s wife, Christine, collected a salary from Americans for a Republican Majority PAC, DeLay’s leadership fund, although the amount she received was not disclosed in this report. DeLay’s wife and daughter have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by ARMPAC, his re-election campaign and other organizations DeLay has been affiliated with over the last few years.

DeLay also disclosed that he took five privately funded trips last year, including one to Miami in April 2004 paid for by the DeLay Foundation for Kids. DeLay has faced public questions over several overseas trips he took with former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and an ethics investigation is expected to begin at some point into those junkets.

The biggest assets disclosed by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) are a townhouse property he owns in Washington, D.C., and a one-quarter interest in a 69-acre property in Plano, Ill., which he bought in February 2004. Both properties are mortgaged.

Hastert also carries a mortgage worth at least $1 million on his personal home and farm, although Members are not required to report such debts.

The Illinois Republican receives a $31,000 annual pension from the state of Illinois from his time as a teacher there, which comes on top of his annual salary of $203,000 as Speaker. Hastert reported earning no royalties on a recent biography.

Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) also disclosed a relatively modest personal net worth. Blunt owns a 41 acre farm in Stafford, Mo., and a condominium in Branson, Mo., although both are mortgaged. Blunt’s wife is a lobbyist with Altria, the tobacco company formerly known as Philip Morris.

Pelosi boasts far more money than any of her GOP leadership rivals. Her assets exceed $22 million, including a stake in a vineyard, although she has more than $6 million in liabilities due to mortgages on a half-dozen California properties. Pelosi also reported extensive stock holdings, mostly in technology companies, worth several million dollars.

The biggest asset listed by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is his mutual fund, worth at least $250,000, although he also reported holding more than $100,000 in stock in Telkonet, Inc. Hoyer reported one overseas trip in 2004: He went to India on a junket paid for by the Confederation of Indian Industry in January 2004.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) has five trusts worth at least $7 million, plus a partnership and several investment funds rated at least $600,000 more. Emanuel reported a loan of at least $250,000 from his re-election committee to himself.

Luke Mullins and Matthew Murray contributed to this report.