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Tough economy also tough on some members of Congress

June 16, 2012|By Kim Geiger and Ian Duncan

WASHINGTON -- Even members of Congress can’t always beat a bad economy.

Personal financial disclosure forms released this week reveal that some of Congress’ wealthiest and most powerful saw the value of their portfolios shrink last year.

House Speaker John Boehner’s investments, which had increased about 15% in value between 2009 and 2010, decreased by nearly as much in 2011.

Boehner reported a net worth ranging from about $1.8 million to $5.4 million. He carries no debt, according to the reports.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a possible vice presidential choice, is known to have challenging personal finances. His disclosure forms suggest that situation might have become worse since he joined the Senate in 2011. According to Rubio’s latest filing, he is somewhere between $70,000 and $1,123,000 in debt. Rubio earned his law degree in 1996 and still owes at least $100,000 in student loans dating back to that time.

While joining the senate allowed Rubio to collect a senator’s salary of $174,000, that appears to be a loss compared to the $220,000 he earned in 2010 from his law firm Marco Rubio P.A. The Florida senator listed the firm as an asset worth between $250,000 and $500,000 on his 2010 forms; it did not appear on his 2011 disclosure.

Though still among the richest members of Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also saw her wealth assets decline in 2011.

Pelosi and her investment banker husband, Paul, held at least $39.3 million in assets last year, down from at least $43.4 million in 2010. The couple’s liabilities appeared to  have increased considerably, from a maximum of $37.5 million in 2010 to as much as $61.7 million in 2011.

That difference is misleading, however, as this was the first year that members of Congress were required to report mortgages on their personal residences.

The mortgage on the Pelosis’ Pacific Heights home in San Francisco is valued between $5 million and $25 million. Paul Pelosi also has a mortgage that is valued between $1 million and $5 million on a condo in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood.  The mortgages date back to 2007 and 2006, respectively, but this is the first year they have counted toward the couple’s reported liabilities. Off the list of liabilities is as much as $6 million in margin accounts held by Paul Pelosi in 2010.

The forms, which are required of elected officials and certain members of their staffs, paint a broad picture of a member’s wealth. Assets and liabilities are reported in ranges, making it difficult to pinpoint a person’s net worth.

The Pelosis, for instance, have five assets worth between $5 million and $25 million each. Among those is Paul Pelosi’s stake in the Sacramento Mountain Lions, a football team that has produced losses for a number of year. He has continued to sink money into the venture, investing at least $1 million into the United Football League and at least $1.9 million into the Lions, one of the league’s five teams, last year.

While the disclosures offer a general picture, they can also reveal interesting details.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska.) and his wife have felt first-hand the impact of the financial crisis in Greece. The couple owns stock in the National Bank of Greece, whose shares lost three-quarters of their value in 2011 as the European nation struggled with a debt crisis.

Most members of the Senate have pretty sound finances, but there are big disparities in their wealth.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), one of the richest senators, has a trust at JPMorgan Chase established in 1934 that is worth more than $50 million and another at Wachovia valued somewhere between $25 million and $50 million.

In contrast, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s largest assets are a checking account she shares with her husband that has between $100,000 and $250,000, and a rental condo valued in the same range. Her husband has loans against equipment for his landscaping business.

Many of the richest members have yet to file their forms. Among them: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. Issa was the wealthiest member of Congress and Kerry the richest senator in 2010, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

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