Thursday, June 17, 2010

Assets Revealed on Capital Hill

                                                              Senator John Kerry (D- MA)
Wednesday was financial disclosure day on Capitol Hill, the one time of the year when government watchdogs and the media can glimpse the personal assets of Congress members. Lawmakers must show the value of their assets as of the previous Dec. 31, as well as any gifts they received and financial transactions they made.

Nearly 30 members of the congressional committees overseeing oil and gas companies held personal assets in the industry totaling $9 million to $14.5 million late last year. That included at least $400,000 in the three companies at the heart of the Gulf of Mexico oil-drilling disaster, according to a Washington Post analysis of financial disclosure forms released Wednesday.

According to the disclosure forms, last year saw an increase in lawmakers investing in oil and gas firms. In 2008, members of the five committees held investments worth at least $8.1 million in companies they oversaw; by the end of 2009, that figure had grown by more than 12 percent.

Holdings in the companies involved in the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico also grew last year, from a minimum of $98,000 to a minimum of almost $400,000. At the top end of the estimates, lawmakers on those panels may have held just shy of $1 million in shares of BP; Transocean, which owned the oil rig; and Anadarko Petroleum, a lease partner. The three companies are now under the microscope of those same lawmakers.

Before the gulf disaster, some lawmakers sold off shares in the companies now involved, including Sen. John Kerry, whose wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, sold the last remaining shares she held in Transocean. But at the end of 2009, Heinz family trusts still held $350,000 to $750,000 in BP stock, much of it bought last year. (Laws require members of Congress to disclose their spouses' assets as well.)

Kerry -- the Senate Democrats' lead negotiator on energy legislation -- had at least $6 million in assets from a dozen big oil and gas companies, including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips. The senator said his wife's inherited trusts, from her first husband's family ketchup fortune, would not deter him from taking on the oil industry.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) also held as much $50,000 worth of stock in the British oil giant, which owns the well that has been spewing oil since the explosion off Louisiana.

Source: Washington Post Politics, Paul Kane and Karen Yourish, June 17, 2010; Ezra Klein June 17, 2010

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