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Disclosures Offer Window on U.S. Lawmakers’ Finances in ’95

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bob Dole might be out of a job now that he’s quit the Senate to wage his “just a man” presidential campaign, but he will not have to worry about making ends meet.

Citizen Dole and his wife have accumulated a multimillion-dollar portfolio of assets, and his wife last year was raking in speaking fees at $20,000 a pop, according to newly released congressional documents.

That puts Dole in a different class than Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the man who succeeded him this week as Senate majority leader. Lott’s portfolio of savings and checking accounts is healthy but a far cry from the bulging coffers enjoyed by some of his millionaire colleagues.

The financial fortunes of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) fall somewhere in between. He collected about $1.2 million in royalties last year on his book of political musings, “To Renew America.” But he had to spend more than $750,000 of it to pay for his agent’s commission and other out-of-pocket publication costs.

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These glimpses into the finances of key lawmakers are provided by the annual reports that members of Congress have to file to disclose information about their outside income, investments and trips taken at lobbyists’ expense. The forms, released Friday, provide that information for all Senate and House members for 1995.

Some of the financial information is sketchy because the forms report the value of assets within broad ranges, not in specific amounts. But they offer a revealing portrait of lawmakers’ financial stations, of the special interests that have given them expenses-paid trips--and of such personal matters as, in one case, the kind of wedding gifts a senator received.

Befitting a former TV and recording star, for example, Rep. Sonny Bono (R-Palm Springs) reported receiving a $5,000 “talent fee” and noted that the Riviera Resort in Las Vegas paid him between $15,000 and $50,000 for the “use of name and likeness.”

Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego) listed an expenses-paid, three-day trip to Dallas at the behest of the American Assn. of Acupuncture.

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And Rep. Steve Horn (R-Long Beach), exhibiting a flare for detail, noted that he is a director of the Kutak Foundation, a charitable organization based in Omaha. When board meetings take place in Washington, Horn noted, he attends, “but I do not seek reimbursement for my $2.20 Metro fares.”

The fresh look at Dole’s finances shows that he and his wife, Elizabeth, who is on leave as president of the American Red Cross, both put a large share of their assets into blind trusts at the end of 1995. Dole’s was valued between $500,000 and $1 million. His wife’s was worth $1 million to $5 million. A campaign spokesman said the Doles created those trusts to “avoid any appearance or possibility of conflict of interest” during Dole’s presidential campaign.

Dole earned $10,500 in speaking fees in 1995. But in compliance with Senate rules prohibiting members from keeping such honorariums, he donated it all to charity. His wife collected more than $100,000 in speaking fees from groups including the National Paint and Coatings Assn. and the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce and reported donating $2,100 to charity.

Lott’s report lists relatively simple financial holdings: checking accounts, retirement savings, life insurance and some real estate and stock investments. The value of the assets he reported falls between about $100,000 and $300,000.

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The report hints at the new majority leader’s ties to the maritime industry, which is so important to his state. He took an expenses-paid trip to Miami in February 1995 to address the Maritime Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.

He traveled to New York in November to receive a $5,000 silver statue and award for “service on behalf of the maritime industry” from the United Seamen’s Service, a seafarers’ group.

Gingrich’s income from his much-touted political book pales by comparison with the $4.5-million advance he was first offered by his publisher just as he was becoming speaker.

Critics complained that Gingrich appeared to be cashing in on his new power, so the speaker reluctantly gave up an advance in favor of royalties based on actual sales.

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The sales-based royalties totaled about $1.2 million in 1995. And according to his financial report, Gingrich paid out $612,119 for his agent’s commission, $120,000 to a man who helped write the book, $4,262 for fact-checking and $16,510 for his tour around the country to promote the book. Those out-of-pocket expenses reduced his net income on the book to $471,348.

He earned another $8,000 in royalties on another book: a novel titled “1945.”

Lawmakers’ 1995 financial reports document what amounts to the last hurrah for some of the most controversial forms of gift-giving and junketing by members of Congress at lobbyists’ expense.

As of January 1996, much stricter rules have been imposed on the kinds of gifts and expenses-paid trips that members of Congress can accept from lobbyists. No longer are senators allowed to take expenses-paid trips to charity events, often at posh ski and golf resorts, and senators are no longer able to accept gifts of more than nominal value.

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Under the old gift rules, members could accept gifts but had to report them on their financial disclosure forms.

That’s why Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) included a list of some of the presents he received after his splashy 1995 marriage to catsup-family heiress Teresa Heinz. Their haul included a mirror from actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, a flower vase from Clint Eastwood and a bottle of wine from Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii).

Times staff writer James Bornemeier contributed to this story.


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