Millionaires populate U.S. Senate
Kerry, Rockefeller, Kohl among the wealthiest
By Sean Loughlin and Robert Yoon
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Senate showed once more why it's sometimes called the millionaires' club.
Financial disclosure forms released Friday by the nation's 100 senators show there are at least 40 millionaires among them -- 22 Republicans and 18 Democrats. All but six of them are men.
The top three wealthiest senators are Democrats: John Kerry of Massachusetts, with a net worth of at least $164 million; Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, with a net worth of at least $111 million, and John "Jay" Rockefeller of West Virginia, with an estimated net worth of at least $82 million.
Kerry -- who is running for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination -- is married to Teresa Heinz, heiress to the Heinz food fortune. Kohl's family founded a retail chain and he owns the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team. Rockefeller comes from one of the wealthiest families in the United States.
The numbers are conservative -- base estimates required by the financial disclosure forms. While lawmakers must detail their finances, they are reported in categories with broad ranges. For example, Kerry's estimated net worth, according to the form, ranges from $164 million to $211 million.
And the statements also do not include the value of federal salaries, pensions or primary residences, meaning the financial picture is incomplete. Bank accounts worth less than $5,000 are also excluded.
Still, the forms provide a glimpse into the financial holdings of some of the most powerful and influential people in the federal government.
"These are helpful," said Steven Weiss, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, which studies money in politics. "They show the public the financial stake their elected officials have."
At the same time, Weiss said the forms can be hard to decipher. His group posts the forms on its Web site, but he said some of the most helpful material on these forms comes from various news media outlets, which analyze them.
The Senate's majority leader, Republican Bill Frist of Tennessee, is another of the millionaires. A heart surgeon, Frist's family founded the Healthcare Company, a large hospital chain. His net worth is estimated at between $15.1 million and $42.3 million.
In comparison, his Democratic counterpart, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, comes from more modest means. His financial disclosure form shows a net worth estimated at $416,000 to $1.2 million.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the news with the release of her memoir, reported a net worth ranging from $352,000 to $3.8 million. While that may seem modest for a woman who snared an $8 million book deal, the former first lady also reported substantial liabilities, ranging from $1.7 million to $6.5 million. Most of these were for legal fees, an apparent result of the numerous investigations into the Clinton's during her husband's presidential administration.
• Among the 2004 Democratic White House hopefuls who are serving in the Senate, Kerry reported the most holdings. But Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was not hurting. He reported a net worth ranging from $12.8 million to $60 million. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida reported holdings of $7.7 million to $31.6 million, and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut had an estimated net worth of $482,000 to $1.8 million.
• Not all senators are millionaires. At least 10 senators reported net worths of less than $100,000.
The numbers, however, point to a group of individuals who, in general, enjoy a level of financial comfort that exceeds most Americans.
"It shows that people of means are the ones who often jump into politics and are often the ones successful at it," Weiss said. He said that's because it also takes considerable funds to launch a Senate bid, and many candidates have to give up their jobs to run an aggressive campaign. People who come from wealthy backgrounds can afford to do so, he said.
Senators and House members are paid an annual salary of $154,700. Members of the House and Senate leadership are paid $171,900 annually.
-- CNN Producers Karla Crosswhite and Heather Riley, and researchers Meghan Dwyer, Jonathan Helman, Mike Killi, Virginia Moubray, Andrea Reynolds, and Maria Simon contributed to this report.