Winning Has Its Benefits
By Kenneth J. Cooper and Kevin Merida
When they were elected to Congress, freshman lawmakers got a mandate to make changes in a disliked legislature. Many also got the biggest pay raise of their lives.
Few of the 122 new lawmakers elected last fall earned anywhere near their current congressional salaries of $133,600, based on a review of financial disclosure statements for 1992 made public yesterday. Most of the first-term members of the House and Senate made a great leap forward in personal compensation because they previously were elected officials of state and local governments, which do not pay as well as Congress, or because they quit jobs to campaign full time.
Take the example of Rep. Eva M. Clayton (D-N.C.), president of the House Democratic freshmen. Her part-time job as commissioner of Warren County, N.C., paid just $1,863. Other pay from a business and a college brought her 1992 income to $8,000.
Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey (D-Calif.) earned $240 as a city councilwoman in Petaluma, Calif., and another $5,000 from the personnel service she owned. Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-Ore.) reported no salary but did receive between $2,500 and $5,000 from the sale of grapes grown on her small vineyard.
A sizable group of former state legislators tended to do better in the pay category, although only a handful of them earned an amount equal to half or more of their congressional salaries. Some of the new lawmakers campaigned against the legislation that increased congressional pay to the current level. Only a few have donated to charity any of the annual increases Congress has awarded itself since 1990.
The freshman class should not be mistaken for a class of paupers, however. Some newcomers did not need to work for income because their considerable financial portfolios did the earning for them. The class wealth tilted in the direction of the West Coast, Republicans and men.
Rep. Michael Huffington (R-Calif.), who spent nearly $5 million of his own money to defeat a GOP incumbent and a pesky Democrat, had plenty of valuable assets left over. They were worth more than $4.7 million, with lucrative investments in public notes, precious metals and films. The interest on his Treasury bills, for instance, yielded more than $1 million.
Other California millionaires included Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and Reps. Jay Kim (R), Howard "Buck" McKeon (R) and Jane Harman (D). Kim, a Korean immigrant, made his money from an engineering business he established. Like Huffington, McKeon's and Harman's wealth came from family enterprises. Harman's assets were valued at more than $7 million.
Wealthy freshmen from elsewhere in the nation included Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.) and Rep. Herb Klein (D-N.J.). Bennett reported dividends and capital gains each worth more than $1 million on a large investment in Franklin Quest, a publicly traded firm that does business consulting on employee time management. He was the company's chief executive officer.
The broad categories assigned to the value of assets do not permit precise calculations of wealth. Some lawmakers provided more information than required: Feinstein submitted a 15-page letter explaining her family's holdings, while the report of Rep. Nick Joe Rahall II (D-W.Va.) ran 500 pages. Others were as short as two pages. In the House, 21 lawmakers filed for extensions. The annual filings exposed, among veteran lawmakers, a decline in speechmaking to benefit charity but continued collection of public pensions, privately subsidized trips and gifts.
The personal finances of some freshmen were more notable for their debts than their assets.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) owed at least one attorney more than $1 million in legal fees for his defense against impeachment as a federal judge. Sen.-elect Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) owed a bank $500,000 for a home construction loan. Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Pa.) listed 16 personal bank loans totaling at least $530,000, debt that an aide said was related partly to a fire that destroyed her family's home.
An influx of baby boomers owed an unusual debt for members of Congress college student loans, some government-guaranteed. Among those still paying for their higher educations were Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Dan Hamburg (D-Calif.), Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) and Mel Reynolds (D-Ill.)
Here are snapshots from the financial disclosure statements filed by members in both chambers for calendar year 1992:
* With lawmakers in both houses barred from keeping honoraria, congressional speechmaking has tapered off even more than it did in 1991. The stars powerful committee chairmen and those easily recognizable to the public were still in demand, however. And they did a pretty good business last year, donating the money to their favorite charities as required by law. The senior woman in Congress, Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), made 66 speeches and other appearances, donating $72,850 to charities chiefly in Colorado, her spokesman said. Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.), one of the Senate's most colorful characters, made 24 speeches and other appearances, including a cameo in the movie, "Dave." For that he was paid $500.
* Some lawmakers reported healthy pensions from former careers. Freshmen Sen. Harlan Mathews (D-Tenn.), who replaced Vice President Gore in the Senate, cited a state government pension valued at $45,390. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) received a Navy pension of $42,444 for a 22-year career.
* And even the most serious-minded members of Congress demonstrated that they love to have a little fun. They traveled extensively from Las Vegas to Vienna, from Ethiopia to Montego Bay. Golf trips were big again, especially the Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament in Sun Valley, Idaho. This charity tourney, which raises money to fight leukemia, was listed under the category of "fact-finding" trips by a number of House members.
Last year's fun was not limited to golf, however. Rep. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), the former major league baseball pitching ace, got an expenses-paid trip to a baseball card show. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) flew to the Senators' Ski Cup in Park City, Utah, for a benefit for the Primary Children's Medical Center.
* As might be expected, there was often a correlation between the committees members served on and the sponsors of their trips. Rep. John J. LaFalce (D-N.Y.) flew to Rome last spring on a trip sponsored by the Institute for International Bankers and the Italian Bankers Association. LaFalce served and still does on the House Banking and Urban Affairs Committee and chairs the Small Business Committee.
* Some lawmakers also found time for moonlighting. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took in $18,000 in salary as a teacher at Bellarmine College in Louisville. Rep. Jack M. Fields Jr. (R-Tex.) earned $19,000 in consulting fees as vice president of a funeral home. But perhaps the most popular extracurricular activity was writing books. Among the growing lot of congressional authors were Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), who reported $8,000 in book royalties and Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Maine) who got $12,500.
* Congress also has its share of wheeler-dealers, those who trade heavily on the stock market, million-dollar landowners and partners in ventures from quarter horses to carwashes to jewelry design. Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) reported more than $1 million in Treasury notes. Rep. Harry A. Johnston (D-Fla.), a member of the House Budget Committee, listed 68 stocks, properties and personal accounts with a value of at least $1.7 million. Sen. Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.) took the unusual step of declaring his precise net worth: $557,000.
* There also were gifts. Sen. Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) reported a $117 auto racing helmet. Rep. Philip M. Crane (R-Ill.) got University of Illinois football tickets valued at $248. It was not exactly a gift, but Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) received $17,612 in cash and a mobile home worth $3,870 from the estate of an uncle in Oregon.
Staff writers Charles R. Babcock, Stephen Barr, Andrew Brownstein, Bill McAllister and staff researchers Lucy Shackelford and Ann O'Hanlon contributed to this report.
President Pro Tempore Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.)
Earned income: $143,800. Lists no speeches for charity, no travel reimbursement and no stocks or bonds. Assets include certificates of deposit, two IRAs and three checking accounts.
Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine)
Earned income: $143,000. Lists assets that include a personal residence in the District and rental property in Portland, Maine. He was reimbursed for five trips.
Majority Whip Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.)
Earned income: $133,917. Assets include bank savings totaling $846,000 to $2,000,000. Received $4,417 from Kentucky Retirement System and lists assets that include checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit and commercial real estate located in Owensboro, Ky.
Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.)
Earned income: $160,996. Received $17,196 for a disabilities pension from the Army and lists $64,000 donated to charity from 35 speeches. He made two trips, to West Palm Beach and to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Gifts included a $1,700 Steuben crystal flag from the Javits Foundation, a $375 bronze bull from Arizona Republicans, a $250 bronze statue from a children's foundation and a $250 crystal bowl from a prostate research group.
Minority Whip Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.)
Earned income: $129,500. Received $35,400 from 19 speeches, $25,000 for participating in "Face Off," a series of radio broadcasts, and $500 for his appearance in the movie "Dave," all of which was donated to charities. He was reimbursed for 12 trips.
Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.)
Earned income: $166,200. Lists income between $50,000 and $100,000 received from the Trust of Helen M. Foley and liabilities on credit cards between $25,000 and $65,000. He was reimbursed for four trips.
Majority Leader Richard A. Gephart (D-Mo.)
Earned income: $143,800. Major asset is interest and house on Outer Banks of North Carolina valued between $250,000 and $500,000. Owes $15,000 to $50,000 in student loans for his children. Received $2,000, which was donated to charity, from AFL-CIO for a speech and was reimbursed for nine free trips, two to Miami paid for by AFL-CIO.
Majority Whip David E. Bonior (D-Mich.)
Earned income: $129,500. Lists total of $7,500 from five speeches, which was donated to charity, and was reimbursed for eight trips.
Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.)
Earned income: $143,800. Major asset is his Washington property valued between $100,001 and $250,000. Received total of $23,500 from 12 speeches and was reimbursed for four trips (one to Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament in Sun Valley, Idaho; one to Paris, paid for by The Battle of Normandy Foundation, two to Palm Springs, Calif.)
Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)
Earned income: $129,500. Received total of $12,500 from eight speeches and was reimbursed for 32 trips. Most were for President George Bush and Republican House candidates and were underwritten by GOPAC, a Republican political action committee. Gingrich also listed book royalties of between $1,001 and $2,500.
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