Congress reveals lawmakers’ personal mortgages for first time

June 14, 2012

Congressional financial disclosure documents released Thursday show that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) owes between $100,000 and $250,000 on his home mortgage in the old mining town of Searchlight. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) owes more than $500,000 on a pair of mortgages that were financed in 2010 for homes in Arizona and Arlington. And Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is down to owing just over $15,000 on the mortgage for his family home in Brooklyn.

Those are just a few of the details found in the tens of thousands of pages of documents released Thursday on members of Congress in their personal financial disclosure forms, an annual exercise aimed at revealing any potential conflicts of interest. This year’s documents, for the first time, include particulars of lawmakers’ mortgages on their primary personal residence.

For years the financial disclosure forms did not require lawmakers to reveal any details about their personal residences, only for homes that were used for rental properties that produced income. That changed after Congress approved a new ethics law this year that clarified insider-trading laws so that lawmakers and congressional staff members were not allowed to make financial trades based on nonpublic information gleaned from their work on Capitol Hill.

As part of the new law, leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics — Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) — won their three-year fight to require lawmakers to reveal their personal mortgage information. Under the new disclosure rules, lawmakers must reveal existing mortgages for personal residences.

Area lawmakers’ mortgages

Locally, the mortgage taken out by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) on her District home is for between $100,000 and $250,000. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) reported a mortgage in the same range on his Fairfax County home and another on a condo in Lee County, Fla.


(Mark Wilson/GETTY IMAGES)

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) also has two mortgages – one for $250,000 to $500,000 on his home in Virginia and one for $15,000 to $50,000 on a rental property on Cape Cod that he has owned for 30 years.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who initially omitted his mortgage and then filed an amended report, said he owed between $100,000 and $250,000 on his Mechanicsville home. Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) reported two mortgages – one for $100,000 to $250,000 in Fort Washington and one for $500,000 to $1 million in Oxon Hill – as well as a home-equity line of credit between $15,000 and $50,000.

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.), who owns multiple rental properties and a farm, reported assets worth between $2.3 million and $9.1 million, including at least $250,000 in precious metals. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said he had three mortgage loans of between $250,000 and $500,000 apiece on his residence in Kensington.

For Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), the disclosures show the continued toll taken on his finances by his divorce last year from his third wife, LuAnn Bennett.

As recently as 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ tally, Moran had assets worth between $1.9 million and $7.2 million, and liabilities of between $850,000 and $1.75 million. But his new forms show that he had almost no reportable assets left at the end of 2011.

Moran reported capital gains income between $24,000 and $67,000 from selling shares in several funds. Those sales came because Moran rolled money from an individual retirement account into a federal Thrift Savings Plan, the contents of which do not need to be disclosed.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) disclosed assets worth between $1.3 million and $3.4 million, much of the amount in a trust established by his late father or in retirement accounts. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) also has a good deal of her money stashed away for retirement, and she reported assets between $191,000 and $565,000.

Sens. Mark R. Warner (D) and James Webb (D) both asked for and received extensions of up to 90 days before they have to file. Warner is regularly ranked among the richest members of Congress.

Top leaders’ finances

Reid, like more than half the Senate, is also a millionaire, with assets totaling at least $2.8 million. That figure could be much higher, because disclosure rules require stating only a broad range of value. So a 160-acre property he owns in Bullhead City, Ariz., is worth between $250,000 and $500,000.

His GOP counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), is worth at least $9.7 million, including a money-market fund worth more than $5 million that was part of an inheritance from his father-in-law. McConnell and his wife, former labor secretary Elaine L. Chao, also own a Capitol Hill townhouse, with a carriage house out back, that is worth more than $1 million. The carriage house provides more than $5,000 a year in rental income.

In the House, the wealth of Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared to drop in 2011: His minimum net worth fell from about $2.1 million to about $1.8 million. Boehner holds a variety of stocks as part of an individual retirement account.

The finances of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) remained relatively stable: His minimum net worth jumped slightly, from $2.89 million to $2.98 million. Cantor reported that his wife earned income as a director of Domino’s Pizza, Media General and Edelman Financial Group. In 2011, Cantor took out a new mortgage for his home in Glen Allen, Va., adding at least $500,000 in debt.The financial disclosure forms also offer a window into the finances of the potential running mates for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

One leading contender, freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), disclosed a minimum of $550,000 in debt from loans and mortgages. At least $100,000 of that comes from lingering student loans that the 40-year-old senator took out in the 1990s to pay for his undergraduate education at the University of Florida and his law degree at the University of Miami, a costly expenditure that Rubio highlighted during a floor speech last month as the Senate debated legislation that would continue low-interest loans.

Rubio also owes at least $100,000 on a rental property he owns in Tallahassee that provides him between $5,000 and $15,000 a year in income. The property — his only major asset — is worth between $100,000 and $250,000.

Another potential Romney running mate, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), also has a high level of personal debt, at $200,000 worth of mortgages on his South Dakota residence that were taken out from banks in Iowa and Nebraska in 2008 and 2011. Thune has at least $100,000 in assets in two other funds but only a handful of other assets that are much smaller in value.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has the most vast holdings of potential running mates from the Capitol.

Portman owes more than $250,000 on his mortgage from PNC Bank for his home in Cincinnati, in addition to a line of credit worth between $500,000 and $1 million that the bank issued the freshman senator in 2009, when he was in the private sector.

Portman, however, has an additional collection of assets and investments worth at least $7.5 million. Those include at least $1.6 million in trusts handed down from his father, William C. Portman, the founder of a successful Cincinnati equipment company who died in the final months of his son’s 2010 Senate campaign.

Staff writer David Fahrenthold contributed to this report.

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