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Senators financial holdings revealed { June 14 2003 }

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Saturday, June 14, 2003
Senators report financial holdings, including energy, pharmaceuticals
By Dan Morgan / The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- As Congress entered a year of intense debate on energy and health care legislation in January, many senators or their spouses owned stock in companies associated with those industries, according to 2002 financial disclosure statements released Friday.

The annual reports, required by the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, were made public as the Senate continues work on a major energy bill affecting oil and gas companies, utilities and pipeline companies. Next week the Senate will take up legislation to provide a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. That measure is being heavily lobbied by the pharmaceutical industry.

All four Democratic senators running for president reported owning shares of pharmaceutical companies at the end of 2002, with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and his wife, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, having the most. Kerry reported sales of Merck & Co. stock worth at least $545,000; the sale of more than $100,000 worth of GlaxoSmithKline; and purchases of over $2 million of stock in Wyeth. A trust benefiting his wife had "over $1 million" in Pfizer stock and a similarly described holding in Walgreen Co.

Two other Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and John Edwards of North Carolina, reported smaller pharmaceutical interests.

Kerry's report also lists five sales of a BP Amoco-related holding, including one in the range of $100,000 to $250,000. His family trust listed interests in Wisconsin Energy Co., and his wife's trust reported investments in oil and gas reserves that aren't publicly traded.

The disclosure forms allow members to disclose their finances in broad categories, making precise analyses impossible.

In addition to a diversified portfolio of pharmaceutical and health care stocks, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., the fourth Democratic presidential hopeful, also reported owning between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. Sales of two other energy stocks netted him a gain of $16,000 to $65,000.

Ethics laws place no restrictions on lawmakers' private investments. However, Bill Allison, spokesman for the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said Friday: "When people have a financial interest in an industry, it's hard for them to objectively make policy. It doesn't mean they're going to vote their pocketbooks, but it certainly raises that question."

GOP senators also have a stake in pharmaceutical and energy industries. Sen. James Talent, R-Mo., reported owning stock in Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Petroleum, Southwest Gas and TECO Energy, with a value of $18,000 to $95,000. Through a trust in which he has a one-third interest, he also had holdings in Duke Energy Co. and several smaller utilities.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, reported a small interest in the Texas oil services company, Halliburton, which was formerly headed by Vice President Richard Cheney. Congressional Democrats have charged that the Bush administration has favored Halliburton for government contracts to restore Iraq's oil industry.

Through spokesmen, several senators said Friday that their investments in pharmaceutical companies wouldn't affect their views on the pending Medicare bill.

"He doesn't do that," said Danny Finnerty, spokesman for Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. Inhofe reported owning shares of such companies as Pfizer and Merck through an independently managed trust.

To limit concerns about conflicts of interest, a number of the wealthiest senators place the bulk of their assets in blind trusts.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., one of the richest members of what has been called a "millionaire's club" -- the U.S. Senate -- listed blind trusts for himself, his wife and his sons, with a total value of $6.5 million to $31 million. Frist, a cardiac surgeon, is son of the late founder of HCA, a nationwide hospital chain.

Frist has said that passing health care legislation is a top priority. He has said he has had no involvement in the family business since being elected to the Senate in 1994.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., reported interest and dividend income totaling between $10,420 and $32,402. His wife, Linda, a lobbyist with the firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman and Caldwell, has represented airlines and aerospace companies. But she reported only that her salary was "over $1,000."

The reports also provide dozens of glimpses into the lives of the members.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, had $15,000 to $50,000 invested in Enduring Reflections, an Ohio company owned by his son "specializing in creating laser etched photographs on crystal blocks as commemorative items." He also had between $15,000 and $50,000 in U-DUMP Trailers, an investment his son recommended as a "good idea," according to a Voinovich spokeswoman

While presidential hopefuls Lieberman and Edwards get ready to face off in the Democratic primaries, Lieberman won the competition for book advances from the New York publishing house of Simon & Schuster. His advance was $12,500, compared to $7,500 for Edwards.

Those figures looked small compared with the $43,500 that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, collected in royalties from his books and song writing.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., donated to charity $16,500 he received for appearing on "Face Off," a daily radio show he's done since 1984.

Meanwhile, radio commentaries by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for The Broadcast Group -- about 300 recorded during the year -- netted him $16,500.

While congressional gift rules have tightened, senators still may accept presents. The American-Iranian Council presented Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., with a $350 clock, which he keeps in his Senate office.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., received cowboy boots valued at $250 from Lester Spell of Jackson, Miss.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., may get the award for worst Senate stock picker of 2002. His only reported stock holdings were in three companies, all of which fell on hard times. His 2,200 shares of Global Crossing and 810 shares of WorldCom -- both of which have filed for bankruptcy -- were worth between nothing and $1,000 each. His paper losses on the two companies were at least $65,000, according to purchase prices reported in earlier disclosures.

Shelby valued his 100 shares of AOL at between $1,000 and $15,000. Meanwhile, he reported, his wife owned shares in Cisco Systems, whose stock crashed in the technology sell-off.

Elsewhere, however, Shelby's real estate investments have more than compensated. His holdings in an apartment complex were worth $5 million to $25 million.

House financial disclosure reports will be released Monday.

-- Staff writers Thomas B. Edsall and Juliet Eilperin and researchers Alice Crites and Lucy Shackleford contributed to this article.

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