Are these tough times for Virginia Sen. John W. Warner?
He's just divorced his actress wife, Elizabeth Taylor. His Georgetown mansion is up for sale. Pieces of his beloved hunt country estate have been sold, and he may be stuck for $500,000 he lent his own campaign four years ago. These days he's carpooling it to Capitol Hill.
Well, times are not that tough, the multimillionaire senator says.
As for the loan, he said last week, "Frankly, I have no plan as to how it (repaying the loan) might be done, or it may never be done. It's not a matter of major concern to me."
As for the divorce, he's not discussing it.
And as for the rest, it's all a matter of scaling back. "My life style now is quite different. I'm by myself," said the 55-year-old Warner, whose assets total more than $8 million.
With his lavish S Street house on the market for six months for $2.4 million, Warner has retreated to a two-bedroom Watergate cooperative. "I wanted to be nearer the U.S. Senate," he said. "A number of senators live in the Watergate and we carpool. It's convenient . . . . I travel extensively in Virginia . . . and my children [from an earlier marriage] have gone happily elsewhere to make their livelihoods."
He "enjoys the Senate thoroughly," he says, and hints at plans for a 1984 reelection bid even though he is still due about half of the $1 million he lent his campaign committee to boost his come-from-behind Senate hopes in 1978.
"I frankly had confidence in the party and in myself to invest that money, and I have no regrets," he asserted.
Since mid-1978 when Warner became the Republican senatorial candidate, he has sold seven parcels of his Middleburg estate, Atoka Farm, for a total of $1.6 million. Most, he said, were sold to neighbors like former assistant Commerce secretary C. Langhorne Washburn, who in Warner's words, "desperately needed 8 1/2 acres to round out his property." Washburn paid $30,000 for the land.
"Throughout my lifetime I've tried to accommodate my neighbors when they needed a small piece of property," said Warner. His estate -- the site of an annual GOP fund-raiser that attracts thousands of Northern Virginians -- still covers about 1,700 acres.
Warner acknowledged that two of the Atoka sales were related to his campaign expenses in 1978, when he outspent his competitors in his unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination and later in the general election campaign after GOP nominee Richard D. Obenshain died in a plane crash.
One Atoka parcel of 101 acres was sold for $304,000 a month before the election. The other 226-acre parcel brought $600,000 a year after Warner took office.
Warner pumped more than $1 million of his personal fortune into his bid for the nomination and then the Senate seat. He first borrowed the money from two Virginia banks, by, in effect, using his signature as collateral, according to an aide, Andrew Wahlquist. Later, on the advice of a personal financial adviser, he retired the loans using money from the real estate transactions, leaving two Warner campaign committees owing him $966,000.
The flow of political contributions in the past four years has reduced the balance owed to Warner to about $500,000, according to Federal Election Commission reports and Warner aides.
Among the donors: defense industry political action committees (Warner is on the Senate Armed Services Committee), numerous influential Virginia Republicans, the campaign fund of Warner's Senate colleague John Tower of Texas, and participants in a Kennedy Center opening night theater party for "Little Foxes" that starred Taylor.
By the end of the year, said Warner aide Wahlquist, the unpaid portion of the 1978 election loan will be down to about $50,000. Still looming will be about $448,000 from Warner's failed drive for the nomination before Obenshain's death. It's that money Warner may never see again.
"He feels no pressure," said Wahlquist. "That's an investment in his election in the Senate."
In Warner's overall finances, that investment may be of little consequence. In addition to Atoka Farm, which is appraised at about $4 million, Warner holds assets of more than $1 million, much of which came from his first marriage to heiress Catherine Mellon. There's also a second, 1,200-acre country property, Milldale Farm in Virginia, valued at $1.1 million, according to a 1978 financial statement by Warner.
Warner's income in 1981 from investments and one Atoka land sale was more than $486,000, according to Fauquier County land records and a Senate disclosure form. And there's always his Senate salary of $60,662.50.
Will there be future sales of Atoka land, like the recent one to Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke? "Certain pieces" might be offered, Warner said. But the stone residence, never.
"My principal pleasure in life is to go down and plant crops."
THE WARNER FORTUNE Senate salary: $60,662 Other income (including a one-time real estate transaction): Dividends, Interest, Rent, Capital Gains, Trusts and Estates -- $486,600 Total 1981 income reported to the Senate: $547,262 ASSETS: Personal property: (securities, Mellon trust and others, farm equipment, etc.) -- $1,015,000 Real Estate: Atoka Farm (about 1,700 acres) appraised by Fauquier County at about $4 million; Milldale Farm (about 1200 acres, also in Virginia), valued at $1.1 million by Warner in 1978; his Georgetown house (not required on the disclosure form, but for sale for $2.4 million) -- approximate total $7.5 million. (The value of his Watergate coop is unknown.) TOTAL ASSETS: about $8.5 million SOURCES: Warner's latest Senate financial disclosure form (covering 1981) and county court records in Virginia. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Warner at his Virginia hunt country estate, Atoka Farm.; Warner's Georgetown mansion, now up for sale at $2.4 million.