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THE NATION

Kerry's Wife Would Keep Her Philanthropic Role

As a first lady, Teresa Heinz Kerry's oversight of a nonprofit empire may be issue, some say.

April 12, 2004|Ralph Vartabedian | Times Staff Writer

She has suspended her membership on the board of Environmental Defense, a group she has helped fund. She has also suspended her board membership at the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental organization she set up after her late husband's death. But in many other areas, she is continuing her involvement, including her board position with the Brookings Institution.

Heinz Kerry's most important work involves the three charitable organizations bearing the Heinz family name. If they were combined into a single corporation, they would rank within the top 30 nonprofit foundations. She chairs the largest, the Pittsburgh-based Howard Heinz Endowment, which reported total assets of $789 million in 2002. She is also a board member of the closely related Vira I. Heinz Endowment, which reported total assets of $401 million in 2002. (Howard was Sen. Heinz's grandfather; Vira his great aunt.)

Heinz Kerry also chairs the Heinz Family Philanthropies, which is not a formal organization but a group of activities run out of the Heinz Family Office. The group includes the Heinz Family Foundation, a registered tax-exempt private foundation with total assets of $62 million.

The group also includes two other foundations bearing the Heinz name, but not registered as tax-exempt corporations. The foundations are the H. John Heinz III Foundation and the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Foundation. Because they are not registered nonprofit corporations, little is disclosed about their activities or how they are funded.

The Heinz fortune has remained largely intact through four generations. Sen. Heinz was an only child, and his father had only one sibling who met an early death. The previous generations had similarly lean families. All of the Heinz money appears to have ended up in either the foundations or with Teresa Heinz Kerry.

When Sen. Heinz died, probate records in Pittsburgh, which would have disclosed much about the family's money and the strings attached to it, were sealed.

The unregistered foundations appear to be funded by the private trusts set up by the Heinz family. Heinz spokesmen say the family does not discuss the trusts or their organization. Some of the trusts' names and holdings, however, were disclosed in a 1995 filing by the H.J. Heinz Co. when the endowments decided to sell much of their company stock.

The SEC filing, known as a 13D, showed that Heinz Kerry had control of 10 family trusts -- separate from the foundations and endowments -- that held about 9.8 million shares of Heinz Corp. The shares were not part of the sale and today are worth an estimated $462 million, though it is not known if the family still holds them.

Heinz Kerry has many assets that make it difficult to estimate her personal wealth.

For example, she owns four homes around the nation and shares ownership of a Boston mansion with Kerry. The five homes have a total assessed value of $33 million. Allegheny County property records show she owns a 90-acre estate in Pittsburgh, still registered under her and her late husband's name.

Kerry's last Senate disclosure lists dozens of pages of stock and bond holdings, most of which are apparently owned solely by his wife. The disclosure does not separate the ownership.

A Heinz Kerry spokeswoman declined to discuss the financial arrangements of the marriage, but it was widely assumed that there was a prenuptial agreement that kept the spouses' money separate. Since her money is held separately, Heinz Kerry cannot donate more than $2,000 to Kerry's campaign, the same limit imposed on any other individual donor. As a result, Kerry took a $6-million loan on their Boston house last year to help finance his campaign.

Heinz Kerry is known in Pittsburgh for her loyalty to the causes of her late husband and her ability to find creative ways to meet social needs. Heinz money paid for the city's symphony hall, a design competition for a convention center, and the cleanup of abandoned steel mills that long blighted the downtown riverfront, according to the city's Democratic mayor, Tom Murphy.

"We have miles and miles of riverfront parks paid by the Heinz endowment," Murphy said in a recent interview. "The last 170-acre steel mill site, the LTV coke ovens, was bought by Heinz."

Murphy said he had met with Heinz Kerry regularly through the last decade, when she funded $6 million to $7 million of projects within the city, not including the funding to state and national groups that focused on environmental issues in Pennsylvania.

The funding she provided to environmental organizations has helped clean up the foul air and dirty water in heavily industrialized western Pennsylvania, Murphy said.

"The best bass fishing in Pennsylvania is now in downtown Pittsburgh," Murphy said, referring to the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. "Thirty years ago, nothing could live in those rivers."

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