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THE NATION

House Members Disclose Wealth, or the Lack of It

One Californian is still paying off her student loan, another has a big credit card debt. Some are multimillionaires.

June 17, 2004|Elizabeth Shogren | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The California congressional delegation includes at least one member who still carries a student loan and another with substantial credit card debt, as well as mega-millionaires such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, according to financial disclosure forms released Wednesday.

Some have several houses and scores of investments while others rent apartments and are saddled with debt.

Federal law requires members of Congress to disclose their finances to the public each year, and their reports provide constituents with insights they might otherwise never get.

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-Lakewood), a 35-year-old first-term congresswoman who graduated from UC Berkeley and UCLA law school, reported that she owed $15,000 to $50,000 on a student loan.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) had a difficult year in 2003.

He lost his home in Alpine during last fall's wildfires.

Insurance compensated him $500,000 to $1 million. But at the end of the year, he was holding more than $75,000 in credit card debt, according to his disclosure form.

For other members, 2003 was a year of financial good fortune.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) sold the options to a screenplay he wrote to Steeple Productions for $23,000. "Baja," if it becomes a movie, will be an adventure film featuring a conservative veteran and a liberal professor.

He was not the only member to benefit from show business. Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs) earned at least $105,000 in royalties from the music of her late husband, Sonny Bono.

Although members of the House are generally younger and not as rich as senators, some Californians are among the wealthiest House members.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) reported assets for herself and her husband, an electronics executive, of at least $56 million.

Members of Congress report assets in ranges, and her family fortune could be many times that.

Even though Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Vista) almost single-handedly bankrolled the recall campaign against former Gov. Gray Davis, he ended the year with at least $113 million, less a business loan secured with personal assets of $5 million to $25 million. Issa earned his first fortune from a car alarm business.

Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and her investment banker husband reported assets worth $25 million to $102 million last year, against liabilities of $6 million to $31 million.

Her biggest asset is a vineyard valued at $5 million to $25 million. She also reported having an individual investment of $250,000 to $500,000 in Alliance Gaming Corp., a gambling equipment company.

Although the House's Republican leaders, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, wield more power than Pelosi, her personal wealth towers over theirs.

Members of Congress also reported trips paid for by outside groups.

Rohrabacher was well-traveled in 2003.

He went to Taipei to urge Taiwanese leaders to crack down on piracy of American intellectual property, particularly music and movies. A Taiwanese trade group paid for the trip.

Rohrabacher and his wife went on a cruise from Puerto Rico to mark the anniversary of the 1983 invasion of Grenada. His trip and those of other former Reagan administration officials were paid for by the Freedom Alliance, a conservative group that sponsored the outing. Rohrabacher was a speechwriter for the Reagan White House.

He also went to Doha, Qatar, on a trip paid for by the Islamic Free Market Institute, a conservative group that advocates capitalism in the Middle East.

"The congressman is a senior member of the International Relations Committee and he's expected to participate in foreign diplomacy," said Aaron Lewis, Rohrabacher's press secretary. .

He was not the only member treated to trips.

Sony Music paid for a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (R-Norwalk), another member of the International Relations Committee.

Members of Congress were also required to report any positions -- paid or unpaid -- they held.

For instance, Pelosi reported that she was on the advisory board for Glamour magazine's Women of the Year awards.

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