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Who wants to elect a millionaire? Republican voters

How many millionaires are there among California Legislators and constitutional officers? Maybe not as many as you might think, but those who have definitely crossed the seven-figure line are mostly members of the GOP.

Of course, there are three dozen other legislators who might be millionaires, and are definitely well off by any measure. But you can’t exactly tell from the financial disclosure forms that they file with the Fair Political Practices Commission. And it is important to keep in mind that elected officials do not have to have to list personal homes, an asset the would surely push far more across the paper millionaire mark, though they do list business and rental property.

All of the 120 legislators and the state’s constitutional officers had to meet a March 1 deadline to turn in their Form 700s to the FPPC. Reporters had a field day earlier this month looking at the disclosures of perhaps the two most prominent state politicians currently in office, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles. This was mainly for the gifts they received, Nunez for his wedding and Schwarzenegger for being himself.

But looking at the forms across the Legislature and other offices is interesting for what they tell us about who we elect–and for what they don’t disclose. Officeholders use these forms to broadly list their assets in categories that read “under $2,000-$10,000,” “$10,001-$100,000,” “100,001-$1,000,000,” and “over $1,000,000.” These ranges–especially the $100,001-$1,000,000 level–make it difficult to say for certain who has assets over $1,000,000.

Still, several trends are clear.

Twenty-one legislators are likely millionaires. Fifteen of them are Republicans, 17 are male, and 13 are both. The legislators who list little or nothing in the way of assets on the other hand, are disproportionately likely to be Democrats.
To put it another way, a Republican legislator is about four times as likely to be a Form 700 millionaire as one of their Democratic counterparts. A man in the Legislature is about twice as likely to list a definite million in assets as a woman–but arguable this is because he’s more likely to be a Republican.

Among legislators, the gender and party group most likely to list a million in assets are female Republicans. Of course, there are only six Republican women in the legislature, out of 47 Republican legislators. The millionaires in this group are Shirley Horton, R-Chula Vista (law firm, stock, trust), and Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield (apartments). Of 72 Democrats, 27 (38 percent) are women.

This millionaire list includes two of three Republican legislators who have turned down raises in recent years and thus make lower salaries than their 117 other colleagues: Senators Jeff Denham, R-Merced, and Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria. The third salary-poor Republican, Assemblyman Alan Nakanishi, R-Lodi, list assets that could be conservatively estimated at around $500,000.

“His personal financial situation doesn’t have much to do with that decision,” said Amy Thoma, Maldonado’s communications director. “There are many, many legislators who, despite pretty vast sums of personal wealth, continue to take the full legislative salary.

Senator Maldonado strongly believes that legislators should have integrity and as someone who believes in fiscal responsibility, thinks it would be disingenuous to accept raises given the state’s financial situation.”

Four of the state’s constitutional officers are definitely millionaires. This list starts with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course. Rumored to have wealth far in excess of $100 million, his asset list comes filed as a 10-page spreadsheet. The first page alone lists 13 different stockholdings of over a $1 million each.

Two of the others are also Republicans, both of whom hold jobs where you would hope they would be good with money: Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and Board of Equalization member Michelle Park Steel. Poizner lists a multi-million dollar portfolio heavy on technology stocks. Steel’s holdings include lots of energy stocks and her interests in Shawn Steel & Associates, her husband’s Chiropractic plaintiffs law firm.

On the Democratic side, there’s only Attorney General Jerry Brown, via stock and real estate. Brown’s wife, Anne Gust, is a wealthy Gap executive.

Just below the millionaire line are about 40 elected officials who are undeniably fairly well off–the majority list at least one asset worth $100,000 or more–but cannot be shown to be millionaires via the forms. This includes most of the remaining Democratic constitutional officers; the state’s main financial officers, Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Controller John Chiang, both have healthy-looking finances.

Among legislators, 16 Republicans (six Senators, 10 Assemblymembers) and 19 Democrats (six Senators, 13 Assemblymembers) fall into this category.

There are also party differences in how Democrats and Republicans made the list. Like many of his well-off Republican colleagues, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is a successful small business owner, having run Budget Signs for two decades. But it’s the building the houses Budget Signs and two paying commercial tenants that put him over the line. Senator Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, gets on the list due to owning a house in Santa Cruz.

The preponderance of Republicans also throws the Legislature out of whack in terms of the distribution of wealth across the state. At the risk of over-generalizing, relatively less-well-off people in the Central Valley have elected richer legislators, while statistically better-off people in the Bay Area and Los Angeles have elected legislators more like themselves in terms of wealth.

It should be noted that a $113,800 annual salary plus around $30,000 per diem makes any legislator far better off than the average California. Nevertheless, the bottom end of the Legislative wealth scale has a decided donkey flavor. Only three legislative Republicans listed no assets outside their legislative salary and a personal home. By contrast, 19 Democrats listed no other assets, including three Senators, 15 Assemblymembers and one constitutional officer.

Contact Malcolm Maclachlan at
malcolm.maclachlan@capitolweekly.net


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