As Congress prepared for action on its biggest tax bill of this year, many senators had a personal as well as political stake in the domestic manufacturing companies that have emerged as key beneficiaries, according to 2003 financial disclosure statements released yesterday.
Although most of the holdings were relatively small, some of the wealthiest members of the Senate or their spouses held stock worth tens of thousands of dollars in companies that are in line to benefit from the corporate relief measure or are fighting to be included in it.
Among them were National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen (R-Va.); Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry (D-Mass.); and John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who are each under consideration by Kerry as a possible running mate. Their manufacturing holdings, modest by comparison with their other investments, were in companies such as General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., Boeing Co. and Microsoft Corp.
The annual financial reports, required under a 1978 ethics-in-government statute, cover assets, liabilities, financial transactions, gifts, travel and other compensation from outside interests. Members are required to disclose their finances only in broad categories, making it impossible to determine a member's exact income or financial worth.
House financial disclosure reports are scheduled to be made public tomorrow.
The Senate reports also underscored the considerable wealth of many of its members, including Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a heart surgeon whose family founded one of the nation's largest for-profit hospital chains.
Frist listed blind trusts and other investments for himself, his wife and three sons with a total value of more than $15 million to about $45 million. Among the smaller investments were Frist's part-ownership (worth less than $15,000) of a Nashville music recording company named Hot Hits Inc.
Despite their father's interest in healthy practices, Frist's sons had modest interests in Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. and Wendy's International Inc., the fast-food company.
Democrats contributed their share of multimillionaires, including John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), with three blind trusts worth more than $80 million in value; Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), with at least $9 million to $45 million in family and blind trusts; and Jon S. Corzine (N.J.). Corzine, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and a former chairman of Goldman Sachs, reported holdings in stock and other funds worth $50 million to $100 million.
But the Democratic leader, Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) reported far more modest holdings, including two investment funds in the $50,001 to $100,000 range.
The corporate tax measure is designed to replace export subsidies that have been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization with new tax breaks for businesses. More than half the relief would go for tax credits effectively lowering the tax rate on domestic manufacturing from 35 to 32 percent. The legislation passed by the Senate includes $167 billion in tax cuts over 10 years, while the price tag for a bill planned for House action this summer is slightly smaller.
But both versions of the legislation also include a wide array of tax breaks for special interests such as NASCAR racetracks, distillers and cruise lines. Also, the Senate bill seeks to breathe new life into nearly $20 million in tax breaks for energy companies that had been proposed in now-stalled energy legislation. The House measure was broadened to include a $9.6 billion buyout for tobacco farmers.
Teresa Heinz Kerry's investments included $1 million or more in a number of companies likely to be covered by the bill, including General Electric and International Business Machines Corp. But they were not particularly large in relation to her overall worth, estimated at about $500 million. Kerry himself reported $430,000 to $2.1 million in four trusts, some including manufacturing investments.
Allen, who reported assets of $675,000 to $2.9 million, had holdings worth less than $50,000 each in manufacturing companies such as General Motors, Motorola Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.
Graham, whose main wealth comes from his family's development company, held stock worth more than $50,000 in Coca-Cola and smaller amounts in GE, IBM and Microsoft.
Edwards, who earned millions as a trial lawyer, has a large, diversified portfolio of investments, including several manufacturing companies, such as 3M Co. and GE.
Aides to Allen and others said the senators' investments do not influence their votes. Charles Lewis, director of the Center for Public Integrity, said that it was "hard to point a finger and say it is a conflict of interest" but that the investments create the impression that "they're all peas in the same pod with the same interests."
The report from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) showed that speaking fees earned by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, declined precipitously -- from $9.5 million in 2002 to $4.4 million last year -- as he spent more time on his soon-to-be-released memoirs.
Sen. Clinton joined Daschle and many other senators as writers-in-residence in the Senate. She reported $2.3 million in royalties for her memoir, "Living History."
Daschle reported $583,250 for "Like No Other Time: The 107th Congress and the Two Years That Changed America Forever" but is giving all proceeds after taxes and expenses to charity. Former majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) reported a $53,000 advance for his memoirs. Others reporting advances or royalties included John McCain (R-Ariz.), Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Zell Miller (D-Ga.). Kerry reported $89,000 in royalties for "A Call to Service."
In a whole different category, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) reported receiving a sled dog as a gift from a sports fishing group in Alaska -- and buying the dog's twin for $250.
Staff writers Charles Babington and Spencer S. Hsu and staff researchers Brian Faler, Lucy Shackelford and Julie Tate contributed to this report.