Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) is a modest speaker of modest means.
The House's top leader shares his Capitol Hill town house with two of his top aides, who pay less than $5,000 a year to bunk with the boss. His major asset is a 270-acre farm in Shipman, Ill., that came from his wife's family and netted less than $200 in income last year. And, unlike many of his less powerful but richer congressional colleagues, he reported owning not a single share of stock.
According to 1998 financial disclosure forms released yesterday, Hastert is an exception to the mania for Wall Street investing that has boosted many House members' balance sheets in recent years. Many rank-and-file members have eagerly embraced the boom in high-tech stocks, according to the forms, and today shares in Microsoft are far more common than shares in family farms.
"Most of his money is invested in real estate. He's from the Land of Lincoln and he would rather invest in the land of Lincoln," spokesman John Feehery said of Hastert, whose unexpected rise to speaker came in a year when his assets were worth a minimum of $305,000 and his liabilities totaled at least $290,000.
In fact, Hastert's low-key financial portfolio is in keeping with the rest of the congressional leadership on both sides of aisle--a distinctly un-rich group compared with many of their colleagues.
Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), a former economics professor who also owns no stock, reported a negative net worth of between $15,000 and $50,000. Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) disclosed one mutual fund holding--but it's worth only between $1,000 and $15,000 at a time when he owes two student loans for his children totaling between $65,000 and $150,000.
One House leader made a $50 million stock market mistake on his disclosure form. Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) initially reported that his wife, Christine, owned more than $50 million in Exxon stock. Ten days later, he amended his report to say the stock was worth between $50,000 and $100,000 and was owned by both DeLay and his wife.
At a time when the Senate is increasingly made up of millionaires who come to the chamber with bursting portfolios, the House leadership's less stratospheric bank accounts are in keeping with the more populist tradition of the lower chamber.
Indeed, the 40 freshmen who won election to the House last fall are for the most part receiving salary hikes by coming to Congress, where the annual pay is $136,700. A few, such as 34-year-old Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who earned $72,500 as a New York City Council member, essentially have no assets at all.
But not all of the House newcomers are paupers. At least nine are millionaires, according to their disclosure forms, and several of those fall in the mega-rich category. Perhaps the richest freshman is Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), heir to the Cannon Mills textile fortune made by his grandfather.
Hayes, who ran a hosiery mill before winning a Democratic open seat last year, reported the vast bulk of his money in three family trusts, one of which is worth between $25 million and $50 million. But although Hayes earns income from the trusts, his office said he does not own the assets.
Other freshmen millionaires include Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a real estate developer who won the special election to succeed departed speaker Newt Gingrich (R); Rep. Ken Lucas (D-Ky.), a financial planner who also collected $575 in wedding fees last year for marrying couples in his capacity as Boone County judge-executive; and Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.), who earned $70,768 as a California assemblyman last year but has extensive land holdings.
Unlike the Republican revolution class of 1994, many of this year's House freshmen came from other government jobs, rather than the private sector, to Capitol Hill. But despite often modest salaries, many reported significant holdings, such as Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), a former vintner who has real estate in St. Helena, a Napa Valley wine town, worth between $250,000 and $500,000, and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), a former state senator who was president of Columbia Gorge Broadcasters Inc., which owns several radio stations. His stake was worth between $1 million and $5 million.
New Rep. David D. Phelps (D-Ill.) made $48,786 as a state representative last year and reported not much other wealth. But he does have a stake, worth between $1,000 and $15,000, in the Phelps Brothers Quartet, a family gospel group of such renown that the Oak Ridge Boys have recorded some of the songs the new House member has written.
Fewer and fewer of his new colleagues, however, still moonlight in such outside jobs, though Rep. Jim Ryun (R-Kan.), an Olympic silver medalist who is hearing-impaired, received $14,000 for an "autograph session" from ReSound Inc., a hearing aid company. Two others who earned outside income last year are doctors: Reps. Victor F. Snyder (D-Ark.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
But 1998 wasn't a big year for a more traditional sideline of high-profile members of Congress: book-writing.
Rep. John R. Kasich (R-Ohio), a presidential aspirant and Budget Committee chairman, did hit 15 cities in a book tour paid for by Doubleday and Co. to promote the book he co-wrote: "Courage Is Contagious." And Rep. John Lewis (Ga.), a Democratic chief deputy whip, also reported extensive travel paid for by Simon & Schuster to help promote his 1998 book "Walking With the Wind," which recounts his life in the civil rights movement.
But neither disclosed any earnings from their authorial efforts. One congressional writer who did was Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who reported a grand total of $8.68 in royalties for a more than decade-old opinion article included in a political anthology. "We're going for full disclosure here," spokesman Peter Kovar said.
Travel is another area where times have changed, although a few trappings of perks past live on in the form of trips paid for by outside interest groups. Rep. Ron Packard (R-Calif.) hit two golf tournaments on a Sun Valley, Idaho, swing last August, receiving food and lodging. He also had an all-expenses-paid trip to Maui from the American Association of Airport Executives.
Others flying free to Hawaii were Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.). Both received travel from the Aspen Institute to Lanai. Waxman, the top Democrat on the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, accepted three other Aspen Institute trips--to Budapest, Bermuda and Charleston, S.C.
One exotic traveler was Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.), who went last August to Fiji on a government-sponsored trip. It may not have been that memorable, however: Largent recorded it as a round trip from Tulsa to "Figi."
A three-week trip to Sicily late last year by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) was a particularly tortured one. Several days' worth of expenses were paid for by the Congressional Economic Leadership Institute and the Transatlantic Policy Network, two nonprofit groups. But McDermott had to return mid-trip to the United States for a relative's funeral and the impeachment vote before heading back to Italy at his own expense.
Not all of the income reported by House members is easily categorized. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) reported his wife's $5,200 in "slot machine winnings," though he didn't indicate which casino had to pay out so many quarters. Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (R-N.Y.) received a $500 honorarium, donated to charity, from Kmart to ride a power lawn mower in the Kids Race Against Drugs on the Mall. He was 75 at the time.
And Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.), widow of entertainer-turned-politician Sonny Bono, reported receiving money from his pensions from such groups as the Screen Actors Guild and noted that she's now the president of Cher Enterprises Inc., the company her husband named after his famous ex-wife.
Mistakes were a problem for members other than DeLay. Also adding too many zeroes to her form was Rep. Barbara T. Lee (D-Calif), who mistakenly checked the tempting "$50 million and over" category for an asset worth less than $500,000.
By far the most voluminous disclosure came from millionaire Rep. Jim Turner (D-Tex.), who offered up 801 pages detailing every single transaction and holding in his various Merrill Lynch and Schwab accounts.
Staff writers Kenneth J. Cooper and Juliet Eilperin and staff researchers Ben White, Madonna Lebling and Nathan Abse contributed to this report.
What They're Worth
J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)
Speaker of the House
Earned income: $136,700
Honoraria, donated to charity: $1,500 from American Society of Anesthesiologists.
Major assets: Farm, half interest in building, house, $100,000 to $250,000 each.
Major sources of unearned income: $27,625 pension; $30,000 to $100,000 rent.
Major liabilities: Mortgages of $65,000 to $100,000.
Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.)
House majority leader
Earned income: $151,800
Honoraria, donated to charity: $2,000 from Pacific Research Council.
Major assets: None.
Major sources of unearned income: Teacher's retirement pension, $2,400.
Major liabilities: Line of credit, $15,001 to $50,000.
Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.)
House minority leader
Earned income: $151,800
Honoraria, donated to charity: None.
Major assets: Mutual fund, $1,001 to $15,000.
Major sources of unearned income: None.
Major liabilities: Two student loans, $15,001 to $50,000 and $50,001 to $100,000; loan on life insurance policy, $15,000 to $50,000.
David E. Bonior (D-Mich.)
House minority whip
Earned income: $136,700
Honoraria, donated to charity: $2,000 from the Connell Co.
Major assets: $1,001 to $15,000 credit union account.
Major sources of unearned income: None.
Major liabilities: None.