What will a person give up for a seat in the U.S. Senate? If you are Evan Bayh, the new Democratic senator from Indiana, the answer is $493,300 a year in salary and other income.
While busily campaigning last year, Bayh still managed to pull in $630,000 from his law firm and an array of corporate directorships. But when he took the oath of office in January, he came under the austere rules of the modern Senate: a salary of $136,700, no paid corporate directorships, and a ceiling on outside earned income of about $20,000 a year.
"He's basically giving up half a million dollars a year," said a spokeswoman.
As annual financial disclosure reports released yesterday by Bayh and other senators made clear, loss of income is but one of the sacrifices that members now must make to partake of the Senate's power. Over the last decade, a series of ethics reforms have turned what was once a fairly free-wheeling body into an increasingly regulated institution that scrutinizes a senator's every financial move, from out-of-town trips to speaking fees.
Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, needed a waiver from the Select Committee on Ethics so a friend could pay his way to New York City. And Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that has investigated a slew of scandals, dutifully reported receipt of a souvenir wooden cane. The cane, he noted, was no gift but payment for his portrayal of Andrew Jackson in a play.
For his part, Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.) made a point of reporting a U.S. Open ticket he received last year, valued at $250, "in the interest of full disclosure." Disclosure wasn't required, he said, because the ticket came from a longtime friend, "as the Senate gift rule permits."
Honoraria for appearances and speeches, once a staple Senate perk, have all but dried up since an ethics reform that took effect in 1991 required all proceeds to go to charity.
The same reform also greatly limited the income a senator could earn from any outside activity, a constraint that showed up in the recent batch of reports, covering 1998, in a number of ways. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) donated to charity a $70,833 Random House advance on his book, in which the Vietnam War hero and now presidential candidate will write about his life and family.
Not that the portrait emerging from this year's disclosures is purely one of penury, self-sacrifice, and senators too timid to pocket a perk.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reported receiving a choice gift of framed ship's papers signed by President James Madison and Secretary of State Robert Smith worth $2,500. His report noted that the gift, from the Conservative Political Action Committee, was acceptable under the Senate gifts rule because it was presented in recognition of his public service work on behalf of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
While Congress closed down many perks in the last few years, travel remains a major exception. Current ethics laws provide few restrictions on free travel that senators can accept, as long as it is reported.
Using that opening, the National Rifle Association last year paid the way of several senators, including a Philadelphia jaunt by Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and a trip to Reno by Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), an NRA director.
Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the No. 2 Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, traveled to Budapest and Montreux, Switzerland, courtesy of the Aspen Institute, which also covered his accommodations at Budapest's posh Hotel Kempinski, and the Montreux Palace.
Sen. Richard H. Bryan (D-Nev.) reported being reimbursed for a one-week excursion to Saudi Arabia, courtesy of the Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women. The society also paid for air fare, food and lodging for a fact-finding trip by Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle's wife, Linda Hall Daschle, a lobbyist.
While a handful of the 100 senators appear to be struggling financially, and a goodly number are of fairly modest means, many are affluent and a few are very rich.
Among the eight new senators elected last fall, John Edwards (D-N.C.), a former trial lawyer, and Peter G. Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), an investor in banks, qualify as multimillionaires, placing them with the likes of Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.).
Edwards, who had dividends of around $5 million from his law firm last year, reported owning stocks, bonds and mutual funds worth between $14.9 million and $31.6 million.
The vast majority of Fitzgerald's wealth is in Bank of Montreal stock valued at between $25 million and $50 million. It was acquired after he and his family merged their Chicago area bank-holding company with the Canadian bank several years ago.
Fitzgerald's personal wealth, it was reported, is the guarantee behind an $8 million line of bank credit to his Senate campaign.
Edwards represents an emerging breed of senators who are gobbling up investments in the hot, high-tech sector that is helping to drive the economy. His portfolio includes investments in Lucent Technologies Inc., LSi Logic Corp., and Intuit Inc. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) also showed an appetite for high-tech stocks, with ownership of Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., and Lucent, while Florida Democrat Bob Graham reported buying Microsoft shares and selling a small stake in the software giant Oracle.
Among other newcomers, Bayh, despite the loss of income, reported assets of $800,000 to $2.1 million, and baseball Hall of Famer Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) was in the same range. Bunning's income included $15,000 from his Jim Bunning Foundation, which raises money from his appearances at baseball card shows, and last year distributed $9,140 to organizations, mainly in his home state.
Compared to those and other princely Senate portfolios, a few look downright threadbare.
Liabilities of Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), one of the Senate's poorer members, included MasterCard debt of $10,000 to $15,000 and credit lines to cover his son's college costs. Paul D. Wellstone (D-Minn.) reported few assets except for his pension as a retired professor at Carleton College.
But as the disclosures made clear, in the current world of two-income families, the true measure of a senator's financial status may be the wealth of a spouse.
Spouses don't have to live by the Senate's limits on outside income, a major boon in Senate families whose incomes are tight.
McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, former chief executive of the United Way and now fellow at the Heritage Foundation, reported earning $89,000 in speaker's fees last year for appearances at several universities as well as groups including the United Way of Rochester.
Wendy Gramm, wife of Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) and a former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, reported exercising Enron Corp. stock options valued between $151,003 and $365,000. She holds assets valued from $617,008 to $1.4 million.
And Anne Bingaman, wife of Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), earned more than $1 million from the sale of Qwest Communications International Inc. stock options.
What Leaders Own and Owe
(R-Miss.) majority leader
Earned income: $151,800.
Major assets: Salomon Smith Barney Mutual Funds (IRA) of $24,234; rental property in Mississippi, $50,001 to $100,000; 161 unimproved acres in Mississippi, $50,001 to $100,000.
Major liabilities: Mortgage on rental property, $100,001 to $150,000; bank loan, $100,001 to $250,000;
Senate credit union loan, $15,001 to $50,000.
Thomas A. Daschle
(D-S.D.) minority leader
Earned income: $151,800.
Major assets: Investment income from Fidelity Advisor Growth First Union Capital Management of Charlotte, N.C., $5,001 to $50,000; all others under $5,000.
Major liabilities: Mortgage on Sioux Falls, S.D., apartment, $15,001 to $50,000; mortgage on Arlington apartments, $100,001 to $250,000.
(R-Okla.) assistant leader
Earned income: $136,700.
Major assets: Retirement, mutual fund and other investments totaling $226,023 to $828,000; $100,000 to $250,000 promissory note from Nickles Machine Corp., family-owned tool manufacturing company in Ponca City, Okla.; $15,001 to $50,000 interest in TW South Inc., restaurant management company in McKinney, Tex.
Major liabilities: None.
Harry M. Reid
(D-Nev.) assistant leader
Earned income: $136,700.
Major assets: Checking and money market accounts, $30,000 to $50,000; $500,000 to
$1 million partnership interest in Reid & Alverson Investment Ltd., which owns a Las Vegas office building; other real estate holdings worth $455,000 to more than $1 million; mining claims worth $200,000 to $400,000.
Major liabilities: $15,000 to $50,000 loan from Reid Ltd.
SOURCE: Associated Press