Literary Pursuits Prove Profitable, Records Show
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) joined at least 20 other U.S. senators in earning money from book deals last year, according to financial disclosure forms released yesterday that show a legislative body with a strong literary streak.
Webb received $314,419 in royalties last year, nearly double what he earns in Congress, according to the forms. The biggest chunk of that income was a $250,000 advance for his book "A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America."
Webb and his wife, Hong Le Webb, listed assets of $4.4 million to $9.4 million. The senior senator from Virginia, John W. Warner (R), also is a multimillionaire. He and his wife, Jeanne, had assets ranging from $4.2 million to $8.8 million last year, according to the forms.
Such holdings put the Virginians in the top tier of Americans in terms of wealth. But the men are hardly unusual in the Senate. Warner was the 24th-richest senator in 2006, well behind Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the leader with $268 million in assets, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. More recent rankings are not complete.
This region's other senators had somewhat more modest portfolios. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) reported assets of $1.7 million to $4 million. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) listed assets of about $200,000 to $745,000, not including her home.
Senators, who earn $169,000 a year, were required to check off ranges of value of their investments.
The disclosure forms showed a number of senators have managed to squeeze book writing into their schedules. Twenty-one senators reported income from some form of book project last year, not including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who sought an extension for her filing.
Clinton (D-N.Y.) disclosed in tax returns released earlier this year that she has earned $10.5 million from two books, "Living History" and "It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us." She donated $1.1 million from book proceeds to charity.
Webb, a former secretary of the Navy, is the author of a half-dozen novels as well as a previous nonfiction bestseller, "Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America."
Pressed about how Webb found time to write -- getting up before dawn? scribbling late into the night? -- spokeswoman Jessica Smith paused.
"I don't know that he sleeps," she finally concluded.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), reported more than $4 million in royalties last year from "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" and "The Audacity of Hope," and he disclosed a complex deal that will give him a cut of the proceeds from another nonfiction book and a children's book.
The presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), reported a more modest take of about $175,000 from the sales of five books he has co-written about his life and ideas between 1999 and 2007.
In addition to book royalties and investment income, Webb's assets include a rental property in Burke with a value of at least $250,000, an office in Arlington valued at at least $250,000 and an investment property in Arlington worth at least $500,000, according to the forms.
The value of the senators' homes is not disclosed.
Under liabilities, Webb reported mortgages on the three properties totaling between $700,000 and $1.5 million.
Warner, who is planning to retire after three decades in the Senate, derived much of his income last year from investments, according to the forms. He and his wife earned between $246,000 and $767,000 in interest and dividends on extensive stock and bond holdings.
Warner's holdings include funds in a trust established by philanthropist Paul Mellon, the father of his first wife. The senator also sold three paintings and an "electroplated novelty tea urn," fetching between $4,000 and $60,000, according to the forms.
Cardin reported assets similar to what was disclosed in 2006. Among the senator's holdings are retirement accounts and a trust established by Cardin's father, a lawyer.
As liabilities, Cardin listed mortgage and construction loans for a real estate partnership in which he owns a 1 percent interest.
Mikulski's assets included retirement accounts and other stock and bond funds. Her range of assets was comparable to what she reported in 2006.
Staff writer Matthew Mosk and researchers Madonna Lebling and Alice Crites contributed to this report.