Peoria Journal Star

June 15, 2006

Lawmakers disclose assets

Annual filing shows broad range for personal wealth and debts, fewer privately funded trips

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood's name was pulled from a barrel at a homecoming game at Illinois College in Jacksonville last October. He won a $1,600 travel gift certificate in the raffle 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 not-for-profit group that seeks to bring more young people into the political process.

Those were among the more offbeat awards and winnings the lawmakers reported in annual personal finance reports 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, R-Peoria, listed assets of between $215,000 and $500,000, most of which is 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.

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

Retiring U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, 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.

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.

With increased scrutiny of lawmakers' privately funded travel, Illinois lawmakers took fewer trips last year than in previous years.

LaHood and his wife traveled to China from March 23 to April 3, 2005, courtesy of The Aspen Institute, a Colorado-based organization.

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.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Morris, listed assets valued at $990,000 to $1.1 million and debts in the range of $300,000 to $600,000, including a mortgage and a construction loan.

The National Coffee Association paid for Weller and his wife to fly to Miami from March 3-6, 2005. Weller went to Phoenix from Jan. 7-9, 2005 on the tab of the Congressional Institute. The Investment Company Institute paid for him to go from Morris to Chicago Sept. 18-19, 2005.

 

Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or at dori.meinert@copleydc.com