Springfield Journal Register

 June 15, 2006

Illinois lawmakers disclose finances

Reports range from guitars to mortgages to peaches

WASHINGTON - Rep. Ray LaHood's name was pulled out of a barrel at a homecoming game at Illinois College in Jacksonville in October.

He won a $1,600 travel gift certificate to benefit a scholarship fund for a local chapter of the NAACP.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., last summer received a $1,900 Gibson Les Paul studio guitar - the kind used by Frank Zappa - from Rock the Vote, a nonprofit group that seeks to bring more young people into the political process.

Those were among the more offbeat awards and winnings that the lawmakers reported in their annual personal finance reports, which were released Wednesday.

House rules permit lawmakers to keep prizes won in random lotteries as LaHood did. Obama was allowed to keep the guitar because it was considered an award. The guitar, which is inscribed to Obama, is displayed in the senator's private office.

"The only reason he can keep it is because he can't play," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs joked.

The annual reports provide a limited glimpse into the personal wealth and debts accumulated by House members and senators, beyond the $162,100 salary for rank-and-file members for 2005. But the lawmakers are only required to report their assets and liabilities in broad ranges and don't have to report their personal residences at all.

LaHood, a Peoria Republican whose district includes part of Springfield, listed assets of between $215,000 and $500,000, most of which were wrapped up in his wife's retirement accounts. He also reported debts of $80,003 to $200,000, down from 2004, when his daughter's wedding and new condo furnishings raised his loans to $265,000 to $650,000. His wife works for Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois.

Lawmakers are required to donate speaking fees to charity. When LaHood spoke to the Pekin Life Insurance Co. Dec. 2, he donated $250 to The Salvation Army Tree of Lights campaign, an aide said.

Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, who also represents part of Springfield, listed assets of between $565,003 and $1.15 million, including his Capitol Hill townhouse, estimated between $500,001 and $1 million. He also lists a mortgage of $250,001 to $500,000 on the Capitol Hill home.

Rep. John Shimkus, Springfield's third congressman, listed assets for himself, his spouse and his children between $685,001 and $1.48 million, including a Washington, D.C., townhouse valued at $500,001 to $1 million, for which he received rent ranging from $15,001 to $50,000 last year. He listed his debts as two mortgages on the house totaling between $300,002 and $600,000.

As he does each year, Shimkus, R-Collinsville, released a lengthy list of every gift he received, including six peaches from Titan Peach Farm and four loaves of zucchini bread and a plate of brownies from Judy Leomker of Edwardsville.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who attached his tax return and pay stub to the report, goes beyond the reporting requirements to list exact values of his assets and liabilities. He also included his wife's salary of $76,929 as a lobbyist in Springfield.

Their assets include the longtime family home in Springfield, valued at $325,000; a Chicago condo worth $300,000; home furniture listed at $45,000; and a 2001 Ford truck estimated at $5,000. In addition, their stock, retirement and credit union accounts are valued at $657,700. Durbin's only debts are mortgages of $207,676 on the Chicago condo and $62,361 on the Springfield house, according to the report.

Obama reported $847,167 from a book advance from Random House, part of $1.9 million he expects to receive for writing three books. He also received $378,239 in book royalties in 2005 from Dystel and Goodrich for a book published in 1995. Obama reported that he and his wife's assets in 2005 were between $700,000 and $1.1 million. He listed no liabilities. His wife works at the University of Chicago Hospital.

He donated $2,000 he received for a speech to the Herb Block Foundation last September to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. With increased scrutiny of lawmakers' privately funded travel, Illinois lawmakers took fewer trips in 2005 than in previous years.

LaHood and his wife traveled to China March 23 to April 3, 2005, courtesy of The Aspen Institute, a Colorado-based think tank. Shimkus and his wife went to Israel Aug. 7-15, their travel and lodging paid by the Jewish Federation of Chicago. Shimkus also traveled to Seward, Neb., May 6-7, 2005, paid by the town's Concordia University.

Durbin and his wife traveled to Ireland Aug. 21-26, 2005, for a conference on United States-Russian-European relations. The trip was paid by The Aspen Institute. Also, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America paid for Durbin to go to Toronto to be the keynote speaker at the group's annual conference.