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Lawmakers flush during economic slump

House leaders are doing well financially during this economic slump.
/ Source: The Associated Press

House leaders are doing well financially during this economic slump.

Their lucrative investments and, in many cases, well-compensated spouses supplement their House salaries.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., one of the wealthiest members of Congress, and her real estate-magnate husband Paul Pelosi spent between $1 million and $5 million to buy the home they'd been living in on San Francisco's Broadway. They also own a vineyard in St. Helena, Calif., worth between $5 million and $25 million and a town house in Norden, Calif., valued between $1 million and $5 million, according to annual financial disclosures released Monday.

The Pelosis also took in rental income of as much as $5 million on five separate commercial properties in the San Francisco Bay area.

As speaker, Pelosi's government salary is $212,100, about $47,000 higher than virtually everyone else in the House.

Other senior lawmakers reported hundreds of thousands in retirement savings, stock and mutual fund investments — and no major liabilities.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., the majority leader, has as much as $665,000 invested in individual retirement accounts.

Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, has an array of mutual fund investments, including seven with a value of at least $100,000 each. He also has a profit-sharing retirement plan from Nucite Sales, his former company, worth between $1 million and $5 million.

In their leadership posts, Hoyer and Boehner both earned $183,500 last year.

House members and senators outside the top six leadership posts receive salaries of $165,200.

Sen. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat, has retirement savings accounts worth up to $100,000 and investments valued between $150,000 and $350,000.

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., his party's nose-counter, reports the fewest investments of any of the top leaders — just $50,000 to $100,000 in stock in Springfield-based Churchill Coffee Co., which he proudly serves in his Capitol office.

But Blunt's wife Abigail, who works in government relations for Kraft Foods, owns stock in the company worth $50,000-$100,000. She also owns stock in her former employer, Altria Group, worth $250,000-$500,000.

The annual disclosure forms, while not exact, give a glimpse of the financial activities of lawmakers beyond their basic salaries.

Other representatives' spouses contribute to their comfortable financial picture.

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, has investments worth between $117,000 and $605,000 and retirement savings of $96,000-$265,000. His wife Maryellen owns 17 separate 401(k) accounts, with a combined value of as much as $1.8 million.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., the ranking Banking Committee member, lists just one major asset: a $100,000-$250,000 rental home in Birmingham. But he reported significant assets in his wife's name, including retirement accounts and annuities worth between $350,000 and $750,000, mutual funds worth $100,000-$250,000, and an investment in a real estate entity worth $100,000-$250,000.

Those investments yielded as much as $100,000 in capital gains and rental income in 2007.

At least one lawmaker mired in a criminal inquiry is collecting money to defend himself in court.

Rep. William J. Jefferson, D-La., lists among his gifts contributions to his legal defense fund topping $20,000.

Jefferson's disclosure form reflects his indictment for allegedly receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using his influence to broker business deals in Africa.

He famously was discovered with $90,000 in the freezer of his Washington home. A federal judge last month rejected Jefferson's motion to throw out 15 of 16 counts against him.

Among Jefferson's liabilities are a personal loan of between $15,000 and $50,000 from Noah Samara, CEO of WorldSpace, Inc., a company that provides digital satellite radio services to Africa. Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, has also loaned Jefferson between $100,000 and $250,000.