August 23, 2008


His name on ballot, her's on properties: McCains keep a bit of privacy (David M. Halbfinger, 8/23/08, New York Times)

When Senator John McCain is in Washington, he lives in a luxury high-rise condominium in Arlington, Va., owned by his wife, Cindy Hensley McCain. Cindy McCain also owns their condos in Phoenix, San Diego, and Coronado, Calif., and their vacation compound near Sedona, Ariz. And it is the beer business, Hensley & Co., she inherited from her father that is the source of the McCain family fortune.

That fortune makes John McCain one of the richest members of the Senate. But barely a sliver of it is in his name.

Democrats have increasingly highlighted McCain's wealth: Senator Barack Obama ridiculed him Thursday for being unable to say how many homes he owns, saying it showed that McCain was out of touch with ordinary Americans.

But with the McCains' money in Cindy McCain's name, as dictated by a prenuptial agreement, the senator's finances are more difficult to assess and scrutinize than those of many other political candidates.

Doesn't it rather show he's uninterested in his wife's wealth?

Meanwhile, Joe Biden looks to have his own Rezko problem, The Senator from MBNA: From the past, a look at Joe Biden's connections. (Byron York, 1998, American Spectator)

[A]s much as he bungled the issue, it turns out Clatworthy was on to something: Biden and MBNA have indeed developed a pretty cozy relationship. John Cochran, the company's vice-chairman and chief marketing officer, did pay top dollar for Biden's house, and MBNA gave Cochran a lot of money—$330,000—to help with "expenses" related to the move. A few months after the sale, as Biden's re-election effort got under way, MBNA's top executives contributed generously to his campaign in a series of coordinated donations that sidestepped the limits on contributions by the company's political action committee. And then, a short time after the election, MBNA hired Biden's son for a lucrative job in which, according to bank officials, he is being groomed for a senior management position.

Of course, lots of members of Congress have intimate ties to corporations in their states or districts. And lots of companies encourage their employees to make big campaign contributions (MBNA has given more to some Republicans than it gave to Biden). And certainly lots of children of influential parents end up in very good jobs. But the Biden case is troubling because all those ingredients come together in one man—along with a touch of hypocrisy. After all, this is a senator who for years has sermonized against what he says is the corrupting influence of money in politics.

Joe's Money Crunch It has become a minor ritual each year in Washington: political observers scan the latest financial disclosure reports from Capitol Hill and marvel at how many members of the Senate are millionaires. The list is headed by names like Kennedy and Rockefeller, but it also includes lawmakers like McCain, Helms, and Murkowski. In all, at least 39 of the 100 members of the Senate qualify for membership in the millionaires' club.

Joe Biden isn't one of them. Even though he has an income that is impressive by outside-the-Beltway standards—a senator's salary is $133, 600 a year—Biden has struggled financially over the years. In his 1995 disclosure report, for example, Biden's liabilities appeared to outweigh his assets. On the positive side, he had between $1,000 and $15,000 in an account at the U.S. Senate credit union and another $1,000-$15,000 in the Delaware state pension plan (disclosure forms do not require senators to reveal exact figures). Biden's largest asset, valued at between $15,000 and $50,000, was six life insurance policies with the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance company.

On the liabilities side, Biden had a loan of between $15,000 and $50,000 from the Senate credit union, plus another loan of between $15, 000 and $50,000 against the cash value of those Connecticut Mutual policies. He also owed between $15,000 and $50,000 on a line of credit from the Beneficial National Bank in Wilmington (he had just that year paid off a loan of between $1,000 and $15,000 with the Delaware Trust Company). And he co- signed two loans totaling between $100,000 and $250,000 for his sons' college educations. Biden would have had a negative net worth were it not for the value of his home. Although disclosure rules do not force senators to list the value of their personal residences, Biden chose to include a letter noting his "good faith estimate" that he had between $500,001 and $1,000,000 in equity in his home. Of course, to get that money he would have to sell the house, a lovely old mansion on three and a half acres of what used to be a du Pont family estate outside Wilmington. Biden bought the house in 1975 but had been thinking on-and-off about selling it for years; he almost sold it before his disastrous run for the presidency in 1988. But the deal didn't happen until MBNA came along.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 23, 2008 8:32 AM
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