Nancy Pelosi’s vineyard makes her fourth-richest Californian in Congress
It can be an odd thing having Nancy Pelosi as your next-door neighbor.
Especially when the House minority leader and her husband open up their bucolic Northern California estate and vineyard on the banks of the Napa River to the likes of Google’s Eric Schmidt, wealthy environmental activist Tom Steyer and Gov. Jerry Brown.
“When all the black SUVs are circling around the property — like planes gathering over O’Hare Airport — that is when you know they are here,” Susanna Kelham, who owns a winery next to the Pelosi property in St. Helena, told the Los Angeles Times.
That was the scene last year when Pelosi hosted a dinner at the couple’s sprawling estate and vineyard about 65 miles north of Pelosi’s San Francisco district to close out a two-day conference in the wine country for political heavyweights.
Such is life for the fourth-richest Californian in Congress.
The Democrat has a minimum net worth of $29.3 million, according to an analysis of her financial disclosure forms compiled by Roll Call. The Los Angeles Times is using the data and for the first time is listing every asset and liability disclosed by the 55 members of the state’s congressional delegation.
Financial disclosure rules allow lawmakers to report broad ranges for the value of both their assets and liabilities starting at $1 to $1,000 and ending with any value greater than $50 million. Precise figures are not required. Roll Call calculated minimum net worth by subtracting the minimum value of liabilities from the minimum value of assets disclosed.
The Pelosi estate on Zinfandel Lane, for example, is valued between $5,000,001 and $25 million, according to the records the congresswoman filed with the House clerk’s office for calendar year 2014. A description of the property posted on its architect’s website says it was inspired by Palladian villas and boasts a guesthouse and a “Z” shaped pool.
The estate is not just for show. The couple also collects between $5,001 and $15,000 in income from the sale of grapes grown at the vineyard. A spokesman for Pelosi did not say who the grapes were sold to or for what purpose.
“The disclosure says grape sales,” said spokesman Drew Hammill. “That’s the only information available.”
An official with the California Department of Food and Agriculture was similarly coy, writing in an email that information about grape sales is “considered proprietary and is protected by statute.”
The Napa County Planning Commission gave the Pelosi family the OK in 2005 to operate a 5,000-gallon-a-year winery with weekly tastings, said Napa County Deputy Planning Director John McDowell.
But the Pelosis have yet to build a full-fledged winery on the property. “They did enough to activate the permit,” he said. “The ball is in their court to pursue the rest of the construction project.”
For all of Pelosi’s power and national stature, she and her husband have taken their concerns hyperlocal.
The couple was at the center of a neighborhood dispute last year when a winery was applying for permits to open next to their property.
Citing traffic concerns and opposition to the size of the proposed winery, Paul Pelosi managed to secure an appeal hearing before the county planning board.
He eventually appeared before the planning commission one Tuesday morning last October in a white dress shirt and blazer to announce that he had dropped his opposition — thanks to the new winery agreeing to cut back on the number of events allowed on the property.
Before he left the podium, he took advantage of time with his audience to gripe about other local issues.
“One thing I would like to say while here, though,” he said, according to video of the hearing, “all of us are concerned about the speed limit on Zinfandel Lane.”
Pelosi earns between $15,001 and $50,000 in rent from a different Napa Valley property that she and her husband own jointly. Her disclosure form listed its worth as between $500,001 and $1 million.
She and her husband also bring in as much as $50,000 in rent from a townhome near the Sugar Bowl Ski Resort in Norden valued between $1,000,001 and $5 million.
Most of Pelosi’s reported assets were listed as belonging to her husband, who has investments in Apple, Walt Disney Co. and Facebook. He has a stake in a few San Francisco office buildings as well as other commercial real estate around California, including one building that houses a Walgreens.
Paul Pelosi also has $10 million invested in the now defunct United Football League, because he owned the Sacramento Mountain Lions team.
The congresswoman’s wealth has long been a source for attacks by her conservative critics as well those on the left. Animal rights activists once protested outside a Marin County restaurant in which she invests because veal was on the menu.
With a minimum $42.8 million in assets and a minimum $13.5 million in liabilities, Pelosi ranks as the 15th-wealthiest member of Congress. And the disclosure forms tell a far different story for one of her colleagues, Majority Leader Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.
McCarthy’s minimum net worth of $47,007 ranked him at No. 386 on Roll Call’s list and No. 38 among the 55 members of the California delegation.
HOW MUCH is your member of Congress worth? See the list >>
Just as the ranges can create fuzzy overall figures, lawmakers are not required to disclose property owned unless it is earning income. However, they must report all mortgages for any property.
They also do not need to list their $174,000 annual salaries, putting each of them above the average Californian.
McCarthy listed a minimum of $147,000 in assets, nearly all of it in a series of mutual funds. He lists a liability of a mortgage owed to Kern Schools Federal Credit Union for a minimum value of $100,001. The mortgage, for his personal residence in California, could be as high as $250,000 due to the allowed ranges.
McCarthy was a high school football player who won the lottery and used the proceeds to open a deli in Bakersfield before entering politics. His two most lucrative investments bring in between $50,001 and $100,000 a year in dividends.
McCarthy was seen as the favorite to succeed Rep. John Boehner of Ohio as speaker but abruptly dropped out of the running.
McCarthy reported earning no money in royalties in 2014 from a book contract with Simon and Schuster Inc., which published the book “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders,” which he co-wrote with former Rep. Eric Cantor and Rep. Paul Ryan, the newly elected speaker.
For more, go to latimes.com/politics.
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