If Sen. John F. Kerry sticks with his campaign's legal view that he cannot use his wife's money to run for president, the Democratic candidate could lose as much as $832 million in potential campaign capital, according to a Center for Public Integrity study of recent financial disclosure records.
No more than $6.8 million worth of the assets the Kerrys disclosed would be available for Kerry's presidential campaign. Out of the 933 assets Kerry lists on disclosure reports, he owns 87, his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, owns 844 and the couple hold two jointly.
In the Center's continuing coverage of the 2004 presidential election, researchers have created online databases that detail the personal income and assets of each presidential candidate based on forms they have filed recently. Disclosure documents fix only a range of values for assets held by a candidate and his family, so it is usually impossible to know for sure who truly is "up" or "down" in particular investments. In addition, the Center's data does not include asset information from Rep. Richard Gephardt or the Rev. Al Sharpton because both requested extensions for filing their legally mandated financial disclosure reports, which were due May 15.
Kerry staffers announced on June 4 that they believe provisions of 1970s-era election reforms would prevent the candidate from funneling his wife's large personal fortune directly into the campaign. The campaign had not previously ruled out putting her money to use. The FEC has issued no official ruling on the matter.
"It's a law that's been on the books for many years," Kerry campaign spokeswoman Kelly Bonander told the Center about the Senator's decision not to use his wife's millions to run for president. "We've never suggested that it could be used," she later added.
While Kerry has supported bans on soft money and other campaign loopholes, the campaign did not say whether Heinz Kerry plans to spend any of her money independently to support her husband. Kerry previously had said he planned not to use Heinz Kerry's money, but that he might in order to counter personal attacks.
Few other candidates have spouses who own substantial separate assets: Vice President Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne, has at least $1.3 million of her own, and Sen. Joe Lieberman's wife, Hadassah, has at least $121,037 in separate assets. Heinz Kerry has personal assets of at least $197 million.
Kerry's personal share of the couple's fortune increased substantially last year when his mother died, according to his campaign. In his previous financial disclosure statement, the candidate showed assets worth between $100,001 and $250,000; in his most recent, his worth had grown to at least $1.4 million (and possibly as much as $6.8 million). Kerry's personal earnings outside government for the year were no more than $1,000, according to financial disclosure forms. (Interest from the couple's combined assets, however, may add up to as much as $19.6 million; their capital gains may be as much as $50 million.)
While Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush reported similar incomes, the sources were quite different. Bush's holdings are mostly in tax-exempt U.S. Treasury Bonds, the interest from which made up the bulk of his outside earnings. One substantial investment with perhaps significant political, though not financial, returns was his Texas ranch. The ranch is valued between $1 million and $5 million but earned less than $200.
Cheney shares his boss's penchant for tax-free government bonds, holding much of his wealth in funds backed by government securities, but he did make a substantial amount of outside money from some altogether different sources: income from royalty payments to his wife Lynne and his continuing deferred salary payouts from his time as CEO of Haliburton, the defense contracts and oil services giant. Cheney received $162,392 in deferred salary. The overall amount of deferred payments is valued at between $501,000 and $1 million over the life of the agreement.
Sen. Joe Lieberman's fortune, estimated in the most recent financial disclosure statement at a minimum of $320,061, declined slightly from a minimum $375,058. In addition to his annual salary of $150,000, Lieberman received $25,000 in fees for sitting on the board of the Manger Family Trust, a fund connected to his mother's family, and he and his wife, Hadassah, pulled in more than $17,000 in income related to a book deal. The Senator's wife also earned $142,000 in speaking fees. She earned an unspecified fee of more than $1,000 for sitting on the board of the Faye Manger Trust.
Sen. John Edwards, the North Carolina trial lawyer whose filings became available only June 13, was worth a minimum of $12.9 million, up substantially from a minimum of $8.7 million the year before. His $1 million outside income included $900,000 earned when his partners bought him out of his law firm.
Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, whose assets in 2001 were $3.9 million, is still valued at between $2.2 and 5.1 million. His income came mostly from interest and stock dividends, along with his $86,000 salary as governor of Vermont. (His term ended in January.)
Sen. Bob Graham of Florida made at least $274,848, mostly from the company he built as a real estate developer in south Florida and dividends and interest on his various investments. In all, his fortune increased from a minimum of $7.4 million to a minimum of $7.6 million.
Most of the other candidates running in 2004 are experiencing the downside of a sluggish economy. Even though he is the president, Bush's value dropped from a minimum of $9.6 million to a minimum of $8.8 million.
Cheney's assets could have fallen significantly since 2001 as the stock market hammered the value of his stock options at Halliburton. He and Lynne's fortune was estimated at a minimum of $22.9 million; now it is valued at a minimum of $19 million.
Cheney, who took the job as head of Halliburton after serving as Defense Secretary in the first Bush administration, has numerous options allowing him to buy company stock at a fixed rate. The declining market has made those options valueless, but should their value increase Cheney has "irrevocably" pledged the proceeds of the options to charity should he exercise them.
Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun's assets also declined, from at least $212,008 to at least $127,008. Her earnings include a $55,240 salary as a professor and another $111,000 in business and legal consulting fees.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich reported assets of between $2,002 and $32,000, about the same as the year before.
When Your Boat Comes In
The reports also list personal gifts, although ethics rules strictly restrict what sitting members of Congress may accept. The rules on the country's chief executive are more flexible.
Amongst gifts he accepted, President Bush received a boat dock and a small boat from a supporter in the Show Me State.
The $5,728 gift came from John L. Morris of Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo. Neither Morris nor Bass Pro Shops are registered to lobby at the federal level, but the company does have 15 "Outdoor World" stores in 10 states and a retail Web site (www.basspro-shops.com) that proclaims itself to be the "The World's Leading Supplier of Premium Outdoor Gear."
According to his office, Morris was traveling and could not be reached immediately for comment.
Other gifts Bush accepted included a cowboy hat with a silver Lone Star on the band from Mr. and Mrs. Peter R. Coneway of Houston, Texas ($1,000); six tickets to a Rolling Stones concert for Jenna Bush from Tommy Mottola of Sony Music Entertainment ($1,926); and a puzzle from the White House Staff ($1,707).
Vice President Cheney also disclosed a few gifts, most of them showing the outdoorsy side of the former Wyoming congressman. Included were: "The Orphan," a small bronze sculpture of a baby elephant by Dan Ostermiller of Loveland, Colo., from the artist ($4,200); "Rainbow Splendor," a bronze sculpture of two trout by Rip Caswell of Troutdale, Ore., from the artist ($3,400); and a Bogdan salmon reel #2 from Mrs. John Robson of San Francisco, Calif. ($1,500).