CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS : Rep. Boxer’s Investment Portfolio Detailed . . .


Her wealth fueled by her husband’s law practice, U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Boxer would arrive in the upper chamber as a millionaire, but probably would face few potential conflicts of interest over her personal finances.

Boxer, the front-runner in the tightening race to succeed retiring Sen. Alan Cranston, has more than $1 million in stocks, treasury notes, bank accounts and retirement funds, she reported in disclosures filed with Congress.

The Boxers released their tax returns--unlike her opponent, television commentator Bruce Herschensohn--showing that they earned an average of $545,000 over the past five years.


Nearly three-fourths of that income came from Stewart Boxer’s practice. He has built a practice representing injured workers seeking benefits in the state workers’ com pensation system and is a founding member of the mid-sized Oakland firm of Boxer, Elkind & Gerson.

Boxer called her work in Congress “irrelevant” to her husband’s career, adding that Stewart Boxer was a success before she entered politics in 1976 and would have done well regardless of her career.

“My husband is very proud of the work he does,” Boxer said. “I’m proud of the work I do. And they don’t cross. We don’t want them to cross.”

The only time their interests might cross could be during congressional debate over tort reform, given that his law partners represent plaintiffs in a variety of personal injury and product liability suits. Boxer said she would consult Senate ethics experts before voting on such legislation, although she doubted that she would have to step aside.

“If all (the senators) who were attorneys abstained,” she said, “and everyone married to attorneys abstained, there might not be enough (votes) to pass anything.”

When Boxer left the Marin County Board of Supervisors after being elected to Congress in 1982, she and her husband reported owning three stocks, with a value of no more than $30,000, and four rentals worth at most $400,000.


Since then, her public disclosure statements show, the couple’s portfolio has grown to include stocks, bonds and retirement funds worth between $744,000 and $3.13 million. Disclosure forms that members of Congress are required to fill out allow them to estimate the range of the value of their holdings.

Their stock holdings, managed by a San Francisco broker, are in such blue-chip corporations as AT & T and IBM, and in commonly traded but lesser known corporations. They also hold U.S. Treasury notes and municipal bonds. The Boxers said they are unsure of their total worth.

Stewart Boxer, 53, has been his law firm’s “rainmaker,” responsible for bringing clients into his firm since before Barbara Boxer entered politics.

He acknowledged that being married to a member of Congress and possible senator may have helped his business, if only because the name Boxer is so well-known in the Bay Area.

“I would think it might,” he said, although he added that he had never used her name to solicit business and that no client has ever told him that he was being retained because of his wife.

“I can’t tell you whether there is somebody who is calling because I am married to Barbara Boxer, the congresswoman. I would hope not. I would hope they are calling me because they know the quality of work our firm provides.”


Unlike many political spouses who are lawyers, Stewart Boxer has no Washington practice and does no lobbying on Capitol Hill. He said he travels to Washington only when his wife is too tired to fly to Marin County on weekends.

The lawyer does his workers’ compensation work in a state system not governed by federal law. His partners practice almost exclusively in county courthouses in the Bay Area, handling civil suits on behalf of plaintiffs. The firm has no federal court practice to speak of.

The son of a Teamster bread wagon driver from Brooklyn, Stewart Boxer has drawn on his union contacts for business. He gets referrals from Teamsters, machinists, retail clerks, electrical workers, and Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

For her part, Boxer has been a solid union vote in Congress. She, in turn, reaps significant campaign donations from labor. Through the June primary, political action committees controlled by labor had donated $219,400 to her, or 43.5% of the money she collected from PACs and 6% of her total.

Union locals are prohibited from giving directly to federal candidates. But local labor officials can ask that their nationals give to particular candidates. Stewart Boxer said he calls on his union contacts to help his wife--and many respond.

“It is a philosophy that we strongly believe in,” he said. “I would hope she is sympathetic to working people in this country, and I would hope they would support her, and I’m sure they do.


Attorney Boxer sought--but did not receive--the endorsement of Teamsters Joint Council 7 in the Bay Area during the Democratic primary, when his wife faced a tough fight with Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy and Rep. Mel Levine, said Chuck Mack, president of the council.

Bay Area Teamsters have, however, made a practice of asking that political donations go to Barbara Boxer. Rome Aloise, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 853, is one who asks the Teamsters-controlled PAC to give to Boxer the maximum because of her strong union record.

He also has been referring clients to Stewart Boxer’s firm for 18 years, before she was in Congress. He called the attorney “down-to-earth” and hard-working. Stewart Boxer regularly attends monthly lunches of the Teamsters, and hosts an annual party for union representatives.

“I would deal with Stew if he was married to Bruce Herschensohn, but I wouldn’t like his politics,” Aloise said. “His firm has done good work for us.”

Not all the Teamsters locals send workers to Boxer, Elkind & Gerson. Mack, for one, recently started diverting members of his local from the Boxer law firm because some members were dissatisfied with the service.

“If Barbara Boxer were President of the United States,” Mack said, “and the Boxer law firm wasn’t providing the service we wanted, we wouldn’t hesitate to move people out and send people someplace else.”


Stewart Boxer has specialized in workers’ compensation law since 1967, when he went to work at what was perhaps San Francisco’s most respected labor law firm, one that produced the late state Supreme Court Justice Matthew Tobriner and former Justice Joseph Grodin.

In recent months, Gov. Pete Wilson has tried to make workers’ compensation an election issue, arguing that the program’s high cost compensation is causing businesses to close. Among his targets are so-called applicants’ attorneys--Stewart Boxer’s line of work. He has said workers’ lawyers are one of the main culprits in driving up the costs of the system.

Injured workers in California receive notoriously low disability benefits, and their lawyers collect fees that also are low--averaging 12% of the workers’ award. But applicants’ lawyers make money by doing a high volume. Stewart Boxer estimates he handles 300 to 500 cases a year.

“He is a very successful person,” Barbara Boxer said, “and I think he would have been if I was a newspaper reporter or a TV commentator. His career was on course long before mine.”