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Congress Feels Personal Impact of Downturn

The richest members of the House of Representatives were not immune from last year's economic meltdown, financial disclosure forms released Wednesday indicate.

The near-collapse of insurance giant American International Group hurt the fortunes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, her report shows. Her husband, developer Paul Pelosi, lost between $100,000 and $1 million when he sold AIG shares at the end of the year, the report says.

The California Democrat reported that the couple's net worth is as much as $96 million, down from as much as $144 million in 2007.

Members of Congress are required each year to report their assets and debts, other than their homes, listing the value of each in broad ranges. That makes it impossible to determine a lawmaker's net worth, except in general terms. Pelosi's reported assets and liabilities, for example, show her 2008 net worth could be as low as negative $33.2 million, compared with negative $19 million in 2007.

The House clerk's office is scheduled to release members' reports Friday, and the Senate will follow on Monday. LegiStorm, a non-partisan website that provides financial information about Congress, posted the House disclosures Wednesday after the House inadvertently put them online briefly Tuesday.

Democratic Rep. Jane Harman of California - who was identified by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics as the wealthiest House member in 2007 - reported a net worth last year of between $105.9 million and $363.8 million.

That's down from between $236.3 million and $558.5 million in 2007, according to an analysis by the center. Harman's husband, Sidney Harman, stepped down last year as chairman of Harman International Industries, an audio equipment manufacturer.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., whose wealth comes largely from auto dealerships, reported a net worth of between negative $70.9 million and $345.2 million in 2008, compared with a range of between negative $69.7 million and $401.2 million in 2007. One of the dealerships Buchanan owns was among hundreds dropped by Chrysler this week during the carmaker's bankruptcy.

Some of the other wealthy House members:

-- Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., lists his 2008 wealth as between $18.2 million and $63.6 million, down from $22.4 million to $72.3 million the previous year.

-- Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., reported a net worth of between $11.5 million and $62 million in 2008, down from between $17 million and $83.6 million in 2007.

-- Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., reported wealth of between $14.3 million and $59 million last year, down from $16.9 million to $70.5 million in 2007.

-- Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif., reported a net worth of between $13.3 million and $60.2 million, down from $14.5 million to $65.5 million a year earlier.

Reports from several of the richest House members were unavailable because they asked for extensions of the May 15 filing deadline. They include Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who earned millions from the car-alarm company he founded; Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, whose wife is an heiress to the Clear Channel broadcasting fortune; Internet entrepreneur and freshman Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo.; and another freshman Democrat, Alan Grayson of Florida, a trial lawyer.

One lawmaker who weathered the financial downturn was freshman Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo. Lummis, whose largest assets are three cattle ranches valued at $5 million to $25 million each, reported assets worth between $13 million and $83.6 million, nearly unchanged from 2007.

Unlike stocks, which are more volatile and fell dramatically in value last year, Lummis' assets are mostly in agricultural land, which is more stable, spokesman Ryan Taylor said. "Land only has a cash value if it is sold, and Rep. Lummis is not interested in putting her land up for sale," Taylor said in an e-mail.

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