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Frist First Among Senate Wealthy

New Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is among the more well-off in a Senate full of millionaires, according to financial disclosure forms released Friday.

The Tennessee Republican, a former Nashville heart-long transplant surgeon whose family founded HCA — The Healthcare Company, one of the nation's largest for-profit hospital chains, reported blind trusts in the $6.5 million to $31 million range.

He also said, in the forms required of all legislators every year, that his wife Karyn and three sons each had blind trusts valued at more than $1 million.

Frist says he hasn't been actively involved in his family's business since he was first elected to the Senate in 1994.

Frist is among many in the Senate who are likely to reap benefits this year from the just-passed $350 billion tax cuts that reduces the maximum tax rate on both dividends and capital gains to 15 percent, down from 38.6 percent for dividends and 20 percent for capital gains.

In contrast, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who has spent most of his life in politics, reported relatively modest holdings.

He had a bank account of $100,001-$250,000; a credit union account of $50,001-$100,000 and a Fidelity investment fund of $50,001-$100,000. He also earned interest and dividend profits from banks and mutual fund accounts in the $10,420-$32,402 range.

Daschle's deputy, Democratic whip Harry Reid, D-Nev., listed 160 acres in Bullhead City, Ariz., worth $500,000 to $1 million and Nevada land holdings and mining claims worth $786,000 to $1.675 million. His investments from municipal bonds and other sources, earned him $29,116-$85,050.

As always among the top millionaires in the Senate was Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who has a family trust fund — worth $8 million to $45 million — set up in 1936 when he was four years old by his late father Joseph P. Kennedy.

He also has two blind trusts in his name valued at $1,001,001 to $5,015,000 and reported unearned income of $2 million to $13 million from family and blind trusts.

Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham said he and his wife have assets worth between $7.7 million and $31.6 million.

The Florida senator is director of the Graham Companies, a business established with his brothers to turn the family's farm land into the suburb of Miami Lakes.

The forms do not list the independent assets and earnings of spouses. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, a Democratic presidential contender, reported no unearned income but his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, heir to the Heinz food fortune, is estimated to be worth more than $500 million.

Kerry lists a Dutch painting owned jointly with his wife worth $250,000-$500,000.

The second-ranked Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, also reported that his wife, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, was the major breadwinner. She listed a Vanguard 500 Index fund worth $500,000-$1 million, another fund worth $100,000-$250,000 and a house worth $500,000-$1 million that the couple rents for $5,000-$15,000.

Among other disclosures:

  • Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., reported that his wife Hadassah earned nearly $33,000 from royalties and signing agreements for their book on his 2000 vice presidential campaign. She also earned $94,000 in fees for eight speeches, all to various Jewish nonprofit organizations.
  • Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., paid off the original $15,001-$50,000 mortgage on a cottage in Ireland.
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, took in $18,009 from his side job as a songwriter. Hatch has written dozens of religious hymns and patriotic soft-rock ballads.
  • Sen. John Edwards, D.N.C., another presidential candidate, asked for an extension in filing his forms. A former trial lawyer, Edwards last year reported a blind trust worth $5 million-$25 million and other accounts in the $2.3 million-$8.6 million range.
  • Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., whose 45 years in the Senate is longer than anyone else in the chamber, filed a simple two-page form stating he owns no stocks, bonds or investment properties. His net worth was under $700,000.
All 535 members of Congress are required to submit financial disclosure forms every year that show outside sources of income, assets, liabilities, travel paid by private interests and speech honoraria.

By law, all honoraria for speeches must be donated to charity. In general, income from activities other than investments was limited to $23,205 last year.

In 2002 senators, and their House colleagues, received a salary of $150,000, a figure that rose to $154,700 this year. The House and Senate majority and minority leaders were paid $166,700 last year and are getting $171,900 this year.

House financial disclosure reports come out Monday.