Archive for Saturday, June 14, 2003

Millionaires still dominate nation’s law making

June 14, 2003

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— From its multimillionaire majority leader, Sen. Bill Frist, to its members of more modest means, the Senate is dominated by people far more affluent than nearly all those they represent, lawmakers' financial disclosure forms show.

Frist, R-Tenn., who lists blind trusts worth up to $31 million, is surrounded by colleagues who enjoy substantial wealth from successful private careers, family riches or wealthy spouses.

Many should benefit from the recently enacted cut in taxes on capital gains and dividends paid by corporations. Among those listing substantial property holdings or income from stock dividends in 2002 are Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Bob Graham, D-Fla.; and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Alexander, chairman of a children and families subcommittee since joining the Senate this year, reported owning from $1.5 million to $6 million worth of stock in Bright Horizons Family Solutions Inc., a child-care company.

Shelby listed ownership of an apartment complex and shares in a title company. Graham held several Florida properties worth from $5 million to $25 million, while Feinstein was part-owner of the Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.

Others with eye-popping numbers included Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who listed four family trusts worth up to $45 million; John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., who reported three blind trusts worth from $80 million to more than $125 million; and banking heir Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., whose assets include up to $50 million in Bank of Montreal stock.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., got more than $1.15 million as partial payment for her recently published memoirs, "Living History." Yet eclipsing that was her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who earned $9.5 million for a global speaking tour on which he made up to $400,000 a speech.

Senators at the lower end of the spectrum included Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who reported a cash account worth $15,000 and a growth portfolio worth at least $15,000.

Joseph Biden, D-Del., listed an annuity account worth from $6,000 to $90,000 and life insurance policies worth from $15,000 to $50,000. His reported liabilities included loans and credit lines ranging from $305,000 to $715,000.

Senators' reports, covering 2002, were released on Friday, three days before the House makes its available.

Members of Congress must report annually on their outside sources of income, assets, liabilities, travel paid by private interests and speaking fees, which must be donated to charity.

Their congressional salaries were $150,000 last year, though leaders earned more.

Some senators' creative instincts were profitable last year.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reported donating $321,000 to charity from earnings on two of his books. Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., earned $101,000 in royalties for two books, including "An Independent Man," which documents his 2001 departure from the Republican Party.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., reported $16,460 in earnings on the book he and his wife, Hadassah, wrote on his 2000 vice presidential candidacy. And Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, received $927 for an autobiography.

Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, earned $18,000 in song writing royalties and $2,123 for a voiceover for an animated religious film. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., appeared in an episode of Warner Brothers Television's "Gilmore Girls" and donated the $1,350 to the San Diego Police Athletic League.

Among the four Senate Democrats actively seeking their party's 2004 presidential nomination, former trial lawyer John Edwards, D-N.C., reported assets including a blind trust worth from $5 million to $25 million. He listed earnings of $100,000 to $1 million from that trust.

Lieberman listed a blind trust worth from $100,000 to $250,000, which he dissolved in April, while Graham reported his real estate.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts listed four trusts worth up to $1.75 million, plus a Dutch painting valued at $250,000 to $500,000 owned with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Her assets were reported to be at least $210 million from her family's Heinz food fortune, and estimates have her worth at more than double that amount. Kerry's campaign has said it believes he cannot legally use her money for his race.

Frist, a surgeon whose family started the huge Hospital Corp. of America, now called HCA, said his wife and three sons each earned blind trusts worth at least $1 million and producing at least that much in income last year.

The family's diversified investments also include stock in Krispy Kreme, the doughnut company, and part-ownership of Hot Hits Inc., a Nashville music recording firm.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., more modest holdings include a bank account worth from $100,001 to $250,000. His wife, Linda, a former top Federal Aviation Administration, is a lobbyist who has represented airlines and aerospace companies.

The reports also said:

l Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the Senate's longest-serving Republican, earned $285 from an Anchorage restaurant.

l His Democratic counterpart, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, reported owning no stocks or investment properties.

l No. 2 Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada included land and mining claims worth up to $2.7 million.

l Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the No. 2 Republican, listed mutual funds and a home owned by his wife, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, worth more than his own.

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