WASHINGTON — If Connecticut’s last U.S. Senate contest was a battle between two of Fairfield County’s rich and famous, the financial wherewithal of the candidates vying for retiring Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman’s seat next year is not quite so eye-popping.
Democratic hopeful Susan Bysiewicz owns some undeveloped property in Middletown, but it’s worth almost nothing (no Empire State Building price tag on that plot). And while Republican Chris Shays doesn’t own a yacht himself, he does rent out space for other people’s boats on the dock at his waterfront home in Maryland.
Brian K. Hill, a GOP contender and Hartford attorney, doesn’t own a penthouse in Manhattan or a vacation pad in Florida. He does have a rental property in Atlanta, although it fetches less than $1,000 a year in income.
The financial disclosure forms filed by so far by those vying for Connecticut’s open U.S. Senate seat help to illuminate their economic status and their personal stories. And so far at least, this isn’t Richard Blumenthal vs. Linda McMahon, who both detailed multi-million dollar family fortunes in their respective 2010 disclosure filings.
Of the candidates in the race so far, Rep. Chris Murphy, a Democrat who currently represents Connecticut’s 5th District, appears to be the poorest. He reported assets worth between $17,000 and $80,000, but he also listed two liabilities — his and his wife’s student loans — which amount to between $30,000 and $100,000, according to Murphy’s filing.
Lawmakers only have to list the value of their assets in broad ranges, so a precise tally of their net worth is impossible. The reports also exclude key information, such as the value of lawmakers’ principal residences, often the biggest ticket item any family owns.
Shays, for now, sits at the top of the financial heap. The total value of Shays’ assets is at least $1.08 million and as much as $5.2 million. Although he and his wife just bought a $115,000 condominium in Bridgeport, they also own a 14-acre waterfront property in St. Michaels, Md., a resort town on the Eastern Shore.
Shays reported earning between $15,000 and $50,000 in rental fees from his boat dock. Renting out 11 of his 14 acres in Maryland for farming is less lucrative, bringing in $250 a year and a tax break.
Shays said the dock currently hosts five boats. And by renting out some of the property for farming, he said, he pays lower property taxes and preserves an element of the local community.
“It’s trying to be part of a community and it’s promoting open space and farm land,” he said. “Someday when I get to farm it, I hope that I make more than $250.”
Shays is currently the co-chair of the Wartime Contracting Commission created by Congress. It will wrap up its work at the end of this month. He had to file a disclosure form because of his work on the commission, but he said he plans to make his Senate candidacy official in early September.
Shays’ reports show that last year he earned $5,500 in speaking fees and $40,000 for serving on the board of the North Highland Co., a business consulting firm. Aside from his Maryland home, his other assets are modest: a few bank accounts worth between $81,000 and $215,000.
Bysiewicz’s assets are valued at between $821,000 and $2.77 million. Her investments, which include holdings for her children, run the gamut, from Fidelity IRAs to Exxon and IBM stock. She reported owning “undeveloped land” in Middletown, but listed the value as under $1,000.
Hill has all of five holdings, including the Atlanta rental and his military Thrift Savings Plan, a retirement savings program for former enlistees. (He’s is a former military lawyer.)
State Rep. William Tong, a Democrat from Stamford, hasn’t yet filed his disclosure forms. He asked for two extensions on the deadline, not an uncommon practice, and he is now scheduled to submit his report in mid-September.
Hill, for his part, is using his relative shallow pockets as a campaign selling point and a way to get in dig at previous and possible future political competitors.
In his campaign video, he said he’s “not a candidate of wealth or fame,” but a regular citizen. “I’m not a self-financed millionaire looking for something to do,” he says, a clear jab at McMahon, who used her personal wealth to bankroll a $50 million operation in 2010.
To be sure, although the financial holdings of the current candidate crop doesn’t run into the 8 or 9 figures (just the 6 or 7 figures), McMahon could change the game. She is described by advisers as intent on a second Senate bid, although she has yet to make any official announcement.
If she does run again, her wealth will be a major factor.
Last election, she and her husband Vince McMahon reported assets worth at least $156 million and as much as $400 million. So despite last election’s $50 million tab, she still has plenty left in her bank account for another self-funded bid.
She lost to Blumenthal, who was recently listed as the 8th wealthiest member of Congress. Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, pegged his family’s assets at $52.93 million, although most of that is in his wife’s name.