WASHINGTON – The political fortunes of new congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid soared last year, and financial disclosure forms revealed Thursday they're also doing well in personal money matters.
New House Speaker Pelosi, through her investor husband, holds stocks and property worth well into the millions. Senate Majority Leader Reid, a gold miner's son, reported property around his hometown of Searchlight, Nev., as well as investments valued at several million dollars.
They are hardly the richest members of Congress. Sen. Edward Kennedy D-Mass., reported four Kennedy family trust funds worth $20 million to $100 million.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., heir to his family's oil fortune, has three blind trusts worth more than $80 million.
Sen. Herbert Kohl, D-Wis., listed numerous investments, including stock in the Milwaukee Bucks valued at more than $50 million, the highest category on the forms. Kohl owns the professional basketball team, which Forbes magazine valued at $260 million this year.
The Republican leaders also reported healthy incomes and assets.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, said he held property in the District of Columbia worth $1 million-$5 million. But a large portion of the family assets is held by his wife, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. She had investments, mostly in index and mutual funds, totaling between roughly $850,000 and $1.9 million, plus retirement accounts valued at between $265,000 and $600,000.
House GOP leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, reported assets of $1 million to $5 million in the retirement plan of a plastics company he previously headed. than $80 million.
The annual disclosure forms, while not exact, give a glimpse of the financial activities of lawmakers beyond their basic salaries. Last year rank-and-file members received $165,200 while minority leaders, the positions Pelosi and Reid held last year, got $183,500. The House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader had salaries of $212,100.
The forms don't often tell much about the legal or financial problems some members face. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., facing a 16-count indictment on charges he received more than $500,000 in bribes, said his major sources of unearned income were rent from two tracts of land on Lake Providence in Louisiana, worth less than $7,500. He reported $56,250 in gifts to his legal defense trust fund.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who is running for president, reported that her husband, former President Clinton, made more than $10 million for giving speeches last year. The couple held two accounts — a regular bank account and a blind trust, each valued at between $5 million and $25 million. The forms don't require Congress members to report exact figures, only to note the ranges their holdings fall within.
Not everyone in Congress is rich. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wis., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the two Appropriations Committee chairmen who are in charge of annual budgets worth almost $1 trillion, reported among the most simple personal budgets. The 89-year-old Byrd listed among his major assets a $100,000-$200,000 retirement account, while Obey claimed two IRAs totaling less than $115,000.
Byrd, the longest-serving senator in U.S. history, holds considerably fewer assets than he reported last year. He had $15,000-$50,000 in his checking account compared to $100,000-$200,000 the previous year. He no longer lists a money market fund in which he held a reported $15,000-$50,000 previously.
"He lives very modestly," his spokesman Tom Gavin said.
Reid owns 160 acres in Bullhead City, Ariz., worth up to $500,000 and land holdings and old mining claims in Nevada worth between $496,000 and $1.39 million. His office said that while the property is referred to as mining claims, there are no mining operations. Reid has promised to revise earlier disclosure forms after questions arose last year over a Las Vegas land deal, but his staff said he is still awaiting Ethics Committee signoff on the proposed revisions he submitted.
Pelosi's investor husband, Paul, reported 30 stock sales and purchases last year, often involving sums up to $500,000 or $1 million each. The couple also own a vineyard together in St. Helena, Calif., valued at $5 million to $25 million.
The disclosure forms reveal a variety of income sources. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., took in rent of $5,001-$15,000 for his cottage in Ireland, and received a $30,000 book advance for "Letters from Nuremburg." His father was a prosecutor at the Nuremburg war crime trials after World War II.
Several other senators were also involved in book projects: Clinton reported royalties of $350,000 for her book "Living History." Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, received a $16,667 advance for a book he is co-writing on radical Islamic movements in Southeast Asia.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, made $1,462 from sales of her suspense novel, which features a combative, liberal senator much like herself.
Boxer also was paid $737 for playing herself on an episode of the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
Lawmakers cannot make more than 15 percent of their salaries in outside earned income, although book royalties are exempt from that limit.
At least one lawmaker, freshmen Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., posted her disclosure form on her congressional web site. Gillibrand campaigned on greater transparency and ethics in government. "To do my part, I have been trying to lead by example," she wrote on the web site.
Two watchdog agencies, Taxpayers for Common Sense and the National Legal and Policy Center, wrote to congressional leaders urging them to make the disclosure forms more comprehensive by including such information as business partners and spousal income.
Judy Biggert, R-Ill., had some luck last year, being picked as one of 25 winners of the United Airlines' Mileage Plus 25th Anniversary. She received 1 million frequent flyer miles, valued at $25,000, plus $5,000 to cover federal taxes on the award.
One lawmaker who is taking a pay cut this year is former Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who is returning to regular member salary after pulling down $212,100 last year as the House's senior leader. Hastert also came out with a book in 2004 entitled "Speaker, Lessons for Forty Years in Coaching and Politics." Royalties in 2006 were zero.