Paul Singer, Jennifer Yachnin and Casey Hynes
Roll Call Staff
September 23, 2008
Everything that you are about to read might be wrong.
Roll Call’s annual attempt to rank the riches of Members of Congress is hampered by one fundamental flaw: It is based on the lawmakers’ financial disclosure forms, which are extraordinarily unreliable sources of information.
The disclosure rules allow Members to report assets in broad categories, so there is no way to tell the difference between a $20 million investment and a $5 million investment. The top category on the Members’ forms is “over $50 million,” so it is impossible to accurately account for anything worth more than that — like a professional sports team, for example. There is also a gaping loophole for assets owned by the Members’ spouse or dependent children; anything worth more than $1 million in value can be reported as “over $1 million.” There is no way to tell whether that is $1.2 million or $1.2 billion.
The rules also don’t require reporting things of value that are not used to produce income — most notably any primary residence or other home that is not used for rentals. That loophole removes from most Members’ portfolios hundreds of thousands of dollars and in come cases millions of dollars worth of assets. Airplanes, fancy cars, antiques or other valuable items are not reported.
In filing a detailed disclosure form on behalf of Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), his accountants added this editorial note, which sums up the problem: The form is meant to comply with Senate disclosure rules but “is not intended to be a complete presentation of Senator Corker’s financial position.”
Beyond all of these flaws, there remains the fact that many, many financial disclosure forms filed by Members of Congress are simply inaccurate. A check mark placed in the wrong box can inflate or deflate a Member’s apparent net worth by millions of dollars, and misunderstandings of the rules have led Members to understate some assets, overstate others and claim additional assets they no longer own.
Where the errors are obvious or have created noticeable discrepancies from prior-year filings, Roll Call has attempted to contact the offices to get a proper understanding of the actual value of the asset or assets in question.
What remains below is a ranking of the 50 wealthiest Members of Congress based on the minimum net worth reported on their financial disclosure forms. To achieve these numbers, Roll Call totaled the assets listed on financial disclosure forms filed in 2008 (covering calendar year 2007) using the lowest number in the ranges in which Members are required to report. An asset from $500,000 to $1 million is counted as being worth $500,000, unless the Member has provided a brokerage statement or other documentation that offers more specific detail.
Liabilities, which are also reported in ranges, are calculated based on the minimum value, and are subtracted from total minimum assets to establish total net worth.
Assets that are not included on the forms but have values that have been established by Roll Call or other publications are not included for the purposes of assembling this ranking, because the Members are not required to report these numbers. This ranking is based only on what is reported on the annual disclosure forms.
1. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
The Massachusetts Senator claims the mantel of richest Member in the 110th Congress. Kerry’s actual holdings, however — including those of wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, widow to ketchup heir Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) — are likely much greater.
In an April 2008 article, Forbes.com estimated Heinz Kerry’s net worth at $1 billion.
Kerry’s disclosure forms list the value of more than 180 assets — including Heinz family trusts and investment funds — only as “over $1 million,” rather than the more specific ranges including $1 million to $5 million. Senators are allowed to list assets in the “over $1 million” category only if the items are held independently by a spouse or dependent child.
2. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.)
The wealthy Californian, who remains heavily invested in Harman International Industries, has seen her wealth increase nearly $10 million since filing her 2006 report.
Harman’s report lists three accounts, including one held solely by her husband, totaling a combined minimum of $125 million in stock and options in the company. Harman’s spouse founded the company, which manufactures electronics under the brand names AKG Acoustics, Harman Kardon, Infinity and JBL, among others.
3. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
The Golden State lawmaker added $2 million to his bottom line in 2007, increasing his fortune by a little more than 1 percent.
Issa, founder of the Vista, Calif.-based Directed Electronics, which manufactures car alarms, claims an investment worth at least $50 million in DEI and $25 million to $50 million in Greene Properties Inc. Both corporations own and operate office and industrial properties in California.
4. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
A descendant of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, the West Virginian’s vast assets remained stable in 2007, as his net worth increased by a little more than 1 percent.
Rockefeller’s fortunes are stored primarily in three blind trusts with JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wachovia Corp. and United National Bank, valued at more than $50 million, $25 million to $50 million, and $5 million to $25 million, respectively.
Another family trust is listed at simply “over $1 million.”
The Senator lists at least $5.5 million in debt on two loans, down from $6.5 million in 2006, when he listed an additional $1 million loan from United National Bank in Charleston, W.Va.
5. Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.)
The Tar Heel State lawmaker’s wealth more than doubled since 2006, when he identified about $36 million in assets. According to Hayes’ office, the increase, including more than $36 million in new trust funds, is the result of an inheritance. Hayes’ mother passed away in 2007.
Among the holdings in Hayes’ numerous trust funds are a mix of stocks and bonds, as well as properties including land in Lake County, Minn., and Sheldon, S.C., valued at least $5 million and $1 million, respectively.
The funds include at least $1 million in stock in corporations such as Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Merck, Pfizer, General Electric and Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA.
The North Carolinian also lists a commercial loan of at least $1 million to finance his private airplane.
6. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)
Buchanan, the owner of several car dealerships, watched his wealth dip slightly in the past year, dropping $1.74 million, or more than 2 percent below his 2006 total.
While the Florida lawmaker’s empire — comprising several automobile dealerships, an aircraft charter business, real estate holdings and investment accounts — amounts to $102.34 million, it carries with it nearly $37 million in debt.
7. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
Lautenberg, who made millions from the payroll processing company he created five decades ago, reported that his total minimum assets jumped about 24 percent, from $45 million in 2006, but that number is still not very revealing. Lautenberg’s two biggest assets are two blind trusts that he set up for himself, each worth $5 million to $25 million. Together they count for $10 million of his assets for this list, though they could be worth five times that amount.
8. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Together with her husband, financier Richard Blum, Feinstein claims a diversified portfolio that grew by $1.8 million, or an increase of just under 4 percent, since 2006.
The Californian lists assets with her husband that include ownership of all or part of numerous limited partnerships.
Among those, the Blum Family Partners, owned entirely by Blum, claims “over $1 million” in stock in RAE Systems, a manufacturer of chemical and radiation detection equipment. The fund also includes “over $1 million” in a real estate investment trust.
In addition, Feinstein lists a $5 million to $25 million investment in Carlton Hotel Properties in San Francisco and owns condos in both Tahoe City, Calif., and on Kauai in Hawaii, both valued at $1 million to $5 million.
Feinstein also lists at least $2 million in debt to Bank of America for two loans made to Blum Capital Partners.
9. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)
Much of Kennedy’s wealth stems from family trusts, and the Massachusetts Senator reported almost no change in 2007, with an increase of less than 1 percent.
Kennedy lists one family trust valued from $25 million to $50 million, as well as four trusts worth at least $5 million each and a blind trust totaling at least $1 million.
The Bay State lawmaker also owns a rental property in Hyannisport, Mass., valued at at least $1 million and lists a plot of undeveloped land in Lafayette, La., owned by his wife, worth from $500,000 to $1 million.
Kennedy lists $1 million in mortgage debt from Northern Trust Co. for his Hyannisport property.
10. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.)
If you take financial disclosure forms seriously (never a good idea), you might be led to believe that Smith’s net worth tripled last year. His 2006 financial disclosure form disclosed net assets of about $8.5 million.
But Smith’s worth is largely derived from Smith Food Sales, a purveyor of frozen vegetables. In 2006 he listed that asset as being worth $5 million to $25 million. In 2007, the value has jumped to the next category, $25 million to $50 million, so even if the value of the asset rose from just under to just more than $25 million.
11. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas)
The Lone Star State lawmaker saw his wealth increase by more than $6 million in 2007, largely thanks to his wife’s investment in a San Antonio real estate partnership.
Together with his wife and family, McCaul also invests at least $12.1 million in Clear Channel Communications, the company founded by his father-in-law, Lowry Mays. The McCauls also list nearly $1 million invested in Live Nation, a Clear Channel spinoff.
12. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.)
He lists an investment of at least $1 million in Procter & Gamble Co., and one family trust lists an additional $5 million to $25 million invested in the same company.
Frelinghuysen’s holdings in Johnson & Johnson decreased in minimal value by half in 2007, dropping to $500,000 from $1 million last year.
13. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
McCain’s true value is impossible to estimate because most of the major assets are listed in the name of his wife or children, thereby requiring far less detailed disclosure. Other news outlets have suggested that Cindy McCain’s net worth may exceed $100 million, but there is no documentation to prove that figure.
McCain’s disclosure form lists 12 items with values of “over $1 million” that are owned by his wife and children. In 2007, the family liquidated a trust set up by Cindy McCain’s late mother that had a reported value in 2006 of more than $2.5 million. The proceeds were then distributed to three other trusts, which show a minimum value of $1.4 million. Cindy McCain also liquidated a blind trust in 2007, selling millions of dollars worth of stock, and the reported value of the stock she owns through Hensley & Co. — her family’s beer distributorship — dropped more than $4 million in value last year.
The only assets McCain claims as his own are a checking account with a balance of $15,000 to $50,000, a money market fund worth less than $15,000 and several book deals.
14. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
McCaskill watched her net worth grow in 2007, increasing more than 24 percent over her estimated $15.66 million total in 2006.
Among McCaskill’s major assets: approximately 270 limited partnerships in affordable housing real estate and a handful of “enterprise trust investment funds” held by her husband that showed a combined increase of approximately $2.7 million in value from last year.
15. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)
In 2006, Corker sold off several commercial properties, thereby eliminating more than $20 million in mortgages that had counted as liabilities against his assets. With those liabilities out of the way, Corker’s minimum net worth jumps from about $1.5 million on his 2006 report to more than $19 million on his 2007 report.
In 2007, according to an explanatory note attached to his disclosure form, Corker also divested himself of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of publicly traded stock in order to avoid any appearance of conflicts of interest.
16. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)
The New York lawmaker saw her estimated net worth increase more than 44 percent over the past year, up from $13.18 million.
The jump results from growth in her portion of a real estate development company, which moved up from the $1 million minimum category to the $5 million minimum category, effectively adding $4 million to Maloney’s bottom line.
The Democrat also owns a “rental property and residence” in New York valued at $5 million to $25 million, a rental property in New Canaan, Conn., ($1 million to $5 million) and a Washington, D.C., house ($1 million to $5 million).
17. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
The Californian’s net worth rose nearly 16 percent in 2007, adding $2.5 million to her personal wealth.
Among her assets, Pelosi lists a Norden, Calif., town house valued at $1 million to $5 million and a real estate investment in Napa, Calif., worth at least $500,000.
In addition, her husband owns a commercial property in San Francisco valued at $5 million to $25 million. In 2006, the property was listed as worth $1 million to $5 million, so that property alone added $4 million to Pelosi’s net worth last year.
The couple also owns a vineyard in St. Helena, Calif., valued at $5 million to $25 million.
The Speaker’s husband also increased tenfold his holdings in Apple Computer Inc. stock to at least $5 million, up from a minimum of $500,000 in 2006.
Pelosi and her husband also owe mortgage debt on several of their properties, including the vineyard, totaling at least $8.75 million.
Other debts listed by Pelosi include lines of credit totaling at least $3.5 million.
18. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)
The largest asset on Lowey’s disclosure form is an account in her husband’s name with the investment firm Ingalls & Snyder listed with a value of $5 million to $25 million. In 2006, Lowey listed the same asset with a value of $1 million to $5 million.
19. Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.)
The North Carolinian and her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), saw a modest rise in their wealth, increasing a little more than 2 percent since 2006.
The Doles’ assets include the only liability listed by the couple multiple checking and money market accounts worth at least $1.12 million, including one account held by Bob Dole valued at “over $1 million.”
The former Senator also claims a stake in five investment funds, worth a combined minimum of nearly $5 million. He also lists multiple promissory notes from the Robert J. Dole Irrevocable Trust, including two worth “over $1 million.”
Elizabeth Dole also lists about 119 acres of land in Johnson City, Kan., valued at $1 million to $5 million.
20. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
21. Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.)
22. Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.)
23. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
The Tennessee Senator’s largest asset is his stock in Processed Foods Corp., a Knoxville-based company where Alexander served on the board prior to his election to the Senate in 2002. He holds $5 million to $25 million worth of the company’s stock, and his wife holds “over $1 million” as well. …..
24. Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.)
25. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)
Sensenbrenner, who submits one of the lengthiest financial disclosures each year by providing his regular report along with a detailed accounting of his net worth, saw his tally drop by about 3 percent from the previous year.
Much of the Wisconsin lawmaker’s losses come from a downtick in his $6.7 million of investments in stocks and bonds, comprising $1.3 million in Merck & Co. Inc. and significant investments in Exxon Mobil Corp., General Electric Co., Pfizer Inc. and Abbot Laboratories Inc. ……
26. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.)
27. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
28. Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas)
29. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)
In 2006, in preparation for her White House bid, Clinton closed a blind trust worth $5 million to $25 million, reported its stock holdings and then sold them off because of different disclosure requirements for presidential candidates.
In 2007, her primary assets were two Citibank deposit accounts, each worth $5 million to $25 million, one of which is new. While the disclosure form she prepared for the presidential race indicated a minimum net worth of about $17 million and her current disclosure only tallies about $10 million, the wide ranges reported for the family’s cash accounts could easily accommodate millions more in assets than she gets credit for in this tally.
Beyond the two giant bank accounts, the family’s biggest asset appears to be Bill Clinton, who earned more than $10 million giving speeches in 2007.
30. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
The Alabaman’s fortunes diminished nearly 6.5 percent in 2007, a drop of about $600,000.
Shelby owns 48 shares in Tuscaloosa Title, a title abstract and insurance company, with a value of $1 million to $5 million, and his wife owns two shares worth $50,000 to $100,000.
The couple transferred a 49 percent stake in a Tuscaloosa, Ala., apartment building, listed at $500,000 to $1 million, to the Shelby Family Trust in late 2007.
Shelby’s assets also include a D.C. town house and a Tuscaloosa home, both valued in the “over $1 million” category, as well as a Tuscaloosa office building listed at $500,000 to $1 million.
The Senator lists $1 million in mortgage debt on the apartment building, as well as a personal note issued by Regions Bank for $250,000 to $500,000.
31. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.)
32. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas)
Since Members of Congress are required to report only properties that are producing income, it is not uncommon to see assets hop on or off Members’ disclosure forms from year to year when they start or stop renting them. Doggett appears to be a case in point: An Austin, Texas, property that was not reported in 2006 appears on his 2007 form with a value of $100,000 to $250,000, producing $5,000 to $15,000 in income. There is no reported transaction, which suggests that Doggett already owned it but began renting the “garage apt” last year.
His other holdings, which showed a solid increase over the prior year, include investments of at least $500,000 in several Vanguard investment funds, as well as Whole Foods Market Inc.
33. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
34. Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah)
35. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.)
36. Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.)
37. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.)
38. Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.)
39. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)
40. Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.)
41. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
42. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.)
43. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.)
44. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
45. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.)
46. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)
47. Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.)
48. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)
49. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)
50. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.)