Earl Blumenauer: from man of the people to multi-millionaire

NOTE: Also published on Oregon Catalyst

It looks like a career in elective office has been very good to Earl Blumenauer.

When Blumenauer went to Congress as a Democrat representing Oregon’s 3rd District in 1996, he was a man of modest means.

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in 1997, his first full year in office.

Now the Congressman’s a multi-millionaire.

He’s achieved his wealth while, other than a stint at Portland State University, his work history consists entirely of holding elective office.

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Source: Derived from calculations of estimated net worth* by the Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org

Blumenauer was sort of a wunderkind, first elected to office when he was barely out of college.

His first job after graduating from Lewis and Clark College in 1970 was assistant to the president of PSU. During his eight-year tenure there he was elected to the Oregon Legislature in 1972 and earned a law degree from Lewis and Clark in 1976.

He was elected to the Multnomah County Commission in 1978, where he worked until 1985. He was elected to the Portland City Commission in 1986, where he served until 1996. His annual salary as Commissioner in his last year was $70,610.

Blumenauer was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in May 1996 in a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the election of then-Rep. Ron Wyden to the Senate. He was elected to a full term that November.

Based on the Financial Disclosure Report**  Blumenauer filed with the Clerk of the House for 1996, and using the Center for Responsive Politics’ formula for analyzing lawmakers’ finances, Blumenauer’s estimated net worth in 1996 when he took office in Congress was $504,009.

His assets included investments in a number of mutual funds, Nike stock, deposits in money market funds, Bank of America and Portland Teachers Credit Union, and investments in real estate in Portland, OR and Washington, D.C.

His Washington, D.C. property was a duplex at 510 6th St. SE he purchased on Sept. 6, 1996 for $169,000 to use as his residence. His other real estate investments were principally in Portland apartment buildings, some through Limited Liability Companies (LLCs).

Blumenauer’s potential retirement benefits from his employment in Congress and his potential PERS benefits are not required to be reported in Financial Disclosure Reports. He did, however, list his PERS account among his assets in his filing for 1999, putting its value at $250,001 – $500,000. Most Members of Congress also receive an annual salary, currently $174,000. They are not required to disclose this information either.

The numbers indicate that Blumenauer wasn’t a pauper, but neither was he filthy rich.

To say the least, he’s done quite well for himself since then.

By 2016, the most recent year for which Financial Disclosure Reports have been filed, Blumenauer, who tries to position himself as a bow-tied everyman on a bike, was, by any measure, a very wealthy man. The Center for Responsive Politics estimated his net worth at almost $10 million ($9,950,020).

Some of that increase in wealth may be related to his 2004 marriage to Margaret D. Kirkpatrick, who served as Senior Vice President of Environmental Policy and Affairs at Northwest Natural Gas Company from January 1, 2015 until January 19, 2016. Financial Disclosure Reports do not break out the individual sources of a member’s wealth.

The Center figured that Blumenauer’s net worth in 2016 made him the 20th wealthiest member of the House, up considerably from 81st in 2004, the oldest year for which ranking data has been published.

In comparison, during 2005-2015, the median net worth of all House members went from $629,250 to $888,510.

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the top industries in which Blumenauer invested in 2016 were oil and gas (estimated investments: $3,175,000) and real estate (estimated investments: $1,475,000).

His 2016 assets included his D.C. residence, with an assessed value of $821,650 (Current estimated market value is $950,690), an investment in the Joinery Holding Co. with a value of at least $250,00 and a vacation house in Deer Isle, ME.

He included the vacation house for the first time in his Financial Disclosure Report for 2004. At that time he said he had a one-half interest in the home valued at $100,001 – $250,000. In the ensuing 14 years, he has continued to report his share of the house’s value in the same range.

Although Congressional rules require that he report all financial transactions, including purchases, sales and exchanges of assets that amount to more than $1,000 in the calendar year, Blumenauer has never reported on the purchase of the house or its address, preventing a search of Deer Isle tax records to determine the property’s current value.

Blumenauer’s 2016 assets also included over $1 million in Northwest Natural Gas stock, investments in a number of mutual funds, deposits in a Schwab Money Market Fund, the Portland Teachers Credit Union and the Congressional Federal Credit Union, and investments in Portland real estate.

In his Financial Disclosure Report for 2016, Blumenauer reported other real estate investments in four properties:

  1. The Pettygrove House, 1400 N.W. 23rd

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  1. 1701 N.W. Glisan

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  1. 2441 N.E. Weidler St.

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4. 530 N.W. 23rd, Campbell Apts.

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Multnomah County records  and a title report show that Blumenauer and his wife, Margaret D. Kirkpatrick, also jointly own residential property at 2241 N.E 30th Ave. in Portland, but neither the purchase transaction nor the value of the asset have ever been noted in Blumenauer’s Financial Disclosure Reports to Congress.

County records show that Isaak Regenstreif, a Portland consultant who describes himself on his website as “a connector and a problem solver,” purchased the property on May 1, 1989 for $182,500. He then sold it to Margaret Kirkpatrick on March 22, 2002 for $82,627.  The recorded title for the property also shows a $270,000 conventional loan.

If Blumenauer included this property, which has a current market value of $1,262,840, in his list of assets on his Financial Disclosure Report to Congress, that would further increase the estimate of his net worth by the Center for Responsive Politics.

 

30thHouseblumenauer

2241 N.E 30th Ave., Portland

Blumenauer’s next Financial Disclosure Report, which will cover 2017, is due to be submitted on or before May 15, 2018.

He is next up for re-election in Nov. 2018.

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Earl Blumenauer. Credit: Getty Images

Blumenauer’s Financial Disclosure Report for 2010 shows he began investing that year in a mutual fund listed as T Rowe Price Retirement 2020, putting in between $100,001 –  $250,000. In 2012, he made a number of investments in Blackrock 2020 Retirement. Both are target-date funds designed to meet the investment objectives of people planning to retire in 2020.

Perhaps that’s a clue that Blumenauer, 69, expects to make his next term his last. If it is, he’ll likely retire a rich man.

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*Rep. Blumenauer’s estimated net worth was calculated by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit that tracks money in U.S. politics, on OpenSecrets.org. Net worth was calculated by summing the filer’s assets and then subtracting any listed liabilities. Filers report the amount of each of their assets, transactions and liabilities as falling within one of several ranges. The minimum possible values for each asset were added together as were the maximum possible values. Likewise, minimum and maximum liability amounts were summed. The maximum debt figure was then subtracted from the minimum asset figure and the minimum debt figure was subtracted from the maximum asset figure. The resulting range represents the extremes of how much a filer could be worth, and his or her actual net worth should fall somewhere within that range. The midpoint or average of the two limits was also calculated and used for purposes of ranking the filers by wealth. Retirement accounts from employment with the federal government are not reported in Financial Disclosure Reports. Most Members of Congress also receive an annual salary, currently $174,000. They are not required to disclose this information.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s Estimated Net Worth/House Wealth Rank

2016: Net worth: $9,950,020; House rank: 20th

2015: Net worth: $6,997,519; House rank: 59th

 2014: Net worth: $7,632,520; House rank: 46th

2013: Net worth: $6,828,015; House rank: 58th

2012: Net worth: $6,809,015; House rank: 48th

2011: Net worth: $6,057,014; House rank: 47th

2010: Net worth: $4,924,520; House rank: 64th

2009: Net worth: $4,302,516; House rank: 76th

2008: Net worth: $3,615,019; House rank: 75th

2007: Net worth:  $3,739,518; House rank: 81st

2006: Net worth: $4,077,518; House rank: 82nd

2005: Net worth: $3,569,016; House rank: 88th

2004: Net worth: $3,357,511; House rank: 81st

1996: Net worth: $504,009; House rank: NA

**Financial Disclosure Reports include information about the source, type, amount, or value of the incomes of Members, officers, certain employees of the U.S. House of Representatives and related offices, and candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives. The reports are filed with the Clerk of the House as required by Title I of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, as amended (5 U.S.C. app. § 101 et seq.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Twin Tragedies: The travails of The Oregonian and the L.A. Times

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The Oregonian just announced it is laying off 11 more reporters, continuing what seems like a never-ending story.

You may recognize some of the names: Samantha Bakall, Jen Beyrle, Molly Blue, Allan Brettman, Jessica Floum, Susan Green, Anna Marum, Lynne Palombo, Mike Richman, Lynne Terry, Jerry Ulmer.

“Today, the positions of 11 of our colleagues in the newsroom are being eliminated,” the paper’s editor, Mark Katches, wrote in a memo to staff. “You’re probably asking yourself, when will these cuts end?,” the paper’s editor, Mark Katches, wrote in a memo to staff. “I wish I could answer that. Although we have made progress growing our digital audience while also producing award-winning, and important journalism, the revenue picture continues to pose challenges for our company—as is the case across the media landscape.”

Founded in 1850 as a four page weekly, iThe Oregonian’s first issue was printed in a log shack on SW First and Morrison, For many years after, it continued to build on its long and storied history.

But today it’s a mere shadow of its former self, and fading rapidly.

Unfortunately, The Oregonian’s not the only struggling news organization on the West Coast.

The Los Angeles Times is mired in turmoil and the people on its news staff are stunned with their predicament.

When Times workers voted on Jan. 4, 2018 to unionize, they figured it would bring a better deal and a more secure future.

“With a union, we can begin to address stagnant wages, pay disparities and declining benefits,” the union pronounced.

Don’t count on it.

Things struggling old-line newspapers are not doing these days are guaranteeing employment, handing out big annual raises and lowering healthcare premiums.

Union leaders said their goals include keeping the working conditions they like and getting a better deal on things they don’t like.

Demand all you want, folks, but it ain’t gonna happen.

Once massive influencers like the Los Angeles Times are on the decline, not the upswing. How the mighty have fallen.

About 20 years ago, the L.A. Times had an editorial staff of about 1,000 people. It’s now about 400, with more layoffs and buyouts expected.

As Nieman Lab, a website reporting on digital media innovation, put it this past week, ‘It’s a cut-of-the-month club, a gift that just keeps on giving.”

About 20 years ago, the L.A. Times had 22 foreign bureaus and 17 bureaus in the United States. By 2012, it had ten foreign “bureaus,” eight of them consisting of just one person, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Today, the Times website lists just five staffed foreign bureaus (Beijing; Beirut; Johannesburg; Mexico City; Mumbai), with four of them staffed by just one person, plus a bureau in Sacramento and a bureau in Washington, D.C.

In Jan. 2003, the Times announced it planed to launch later that year its fifth regional edition, which would focus on the Inland Empire’s fast-growing Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “It’s a huge market, and parts of it have very strong affinities to Los Angeles,” John Puerner, then the Times’ CEO, publisher, and president, said in a statement to Editor & Publisher. “I think it could represent an important source of future, consistent, regular circulation growth.”

So much for that.

The regional editions are dead and gone.

About 20 years ago, the paper launched a National Edition. To the dismay of its supporters, it too expired.

So don’t get your hopes up all you folks in the L.A. Times newsroom. The union’s not going to save you.