By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Running for president is a pursuit for the wealthy, according to personal financial disclosure forms released yesterday that show that at least 10 of the major party candidates are millionaires and, collectively, the field of contenders is worth at least a quarter-billion dollars.
The candidates have amassed their fortunes in a variety of fashions. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) wrote his way to millionaire status with a best-selling memoir. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) raked in $11 million by trotting the globe giving speeches last year.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) married money -- his wife is the millionaire daughter of an Arizona beer magnate. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) became the richest of the 2008 candidates for the White House by dealing in private equity funds that have bought and sold significant interests in more than 180 companies.
And John Edwards, a trial lawyer who earned his initial fortune by defending the ill and injured in the courtroom, made $479,000 last year in salary and held more than $7.5 million in investments with Fortress Investment Group, a New York hedge fund.
Edwards has faced questions about the hedge fund -- where he said he worked only a few days a month -- because Fortress owned offshore funds that served as tax havens for investors and because the firm's portfolio included subprime lenders, which provide high-risk loans that often target minorities. As a candidate, Edwards has railed against both practices.
Each candidate's wealth has a story behind it, though one candidate whose fortune has been made largely outside the public eye is Giuliani, who left the mayor's office with modest holdings for a man with worldwide fame: $1.2 million to $1.8 million in personal assets, according to his disclosure forms from that period.
Since that time, his empire has grown to include a consulting firm that earned him $4.1 million last year, a partnership in the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani that guarantees him $1 million per year, book royalties and speaking fees that grossed more than $11 million, and a dizzying array of stock holdings and business interests that combined are worth $20 million to $70 million.
Giuliani has a stake in a biohazard firm that responds to terrorist attacks, an outfitter that markets canteens to the military and a private equity fund that was formed by former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld (R).
His report also shows that he is collecting interest from money loaned to Kenneth Caruso, a law partner whom Giuliani appointed to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Gambling Control Commission and an advisory panel on city appointments during his mayoral tenure.
Edwards also profited on the speaking circuit, but not as handsomely -- his fees typically ranged from $30,000 to $40,000 per appearance. Edwards's net worth is $22 million to $62 million, according to his report. His campaign estimated the total at $29.5 million, and it said he gave $350,000 to charity last year.
In a recent interview, Edwards said that he provided informal advice to Fortress about political matters and that he was unaware of the firm's push into subprime lending. Subprime loans are aimed at buyers with poor credit and carry higher interest rates because of the risk.
When asked about Fortress's Cayman Islands incorporation, an Edwards campaign spokeswoman said that the former senator from North Carolina "believes offshore tax shelters are wrong" and that "as president, he will end them."
His disclosure form indicates that one of the Fortress funds Edwards reported as an asset, the Investments Fund III (Fund D) LP, was incorporated in the Caymans on Sept. 23, 2004, according to a filing the hedge fund firm made with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month.
Edwards campaign spokesman Eric Schultz said the investment should not be confused with an offshore tax haven, adding: "He pays the same taxes as if they were incorporated in Chapel Hill."
Schultz said that Edwards's Fortress work should be viewed in context: "It is true that he did consulting work for a hedge fund, part time, but it's also true that he started a poverty center at the University of North Carolina, led minimum-wage initiatives in six states, started a college-for-everyone program for poor communities in eastern North Carolina."
Other candidates reporting their net worths as of the end of 2006: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), between $3.5 million and $10.1 million; Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), $3.3 million to $8.7 million; Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), $1.5 million to $3.5 million; Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), $1 million to $2.4 million; Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), $545,000 to $1.2 million; Obama, $500,000 to $1.1 million; former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R), $350,000 to $900,000; and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), $62,000 to $428,000.
Romney was one of five candidates who received a 45-day extension from the FEC, but his campaign estimated his personal assets at $190 million to $250 million. McCain and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) also received extensions.
Presidential historians note that, from Theodore Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, there is a long record of exceedingly wealthy commanders in chief.
"Celebrity, name recognition, fame, money" -- they all play into the success of campaigns, said historian Robert Dallek.
Staff writer John Solomon, staff researchers Madonna Lebling and Meg Smith, and research director Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.