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.

Earl_Blumenauer_1997

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

PettygroveHouse

  1. 1701 N.W. Glisan

GlisanHouse2

  1. 2441 N.E. Weidler St.

weidlerHouse

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.

EarlBlumenauerCreditGettyImages

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.

___________________________

*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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One thought on “Earl Blumenauer: from man of the people to multi-millionaire

  1. Some background info on my upcoming race for US Rep, District 3, Oregon:

    This race is a little personal for me. I joined NW Natural Gas in year 2000 as measurement engineer. I was in charge of all things that maintained the accuracy of converting the volume, temperature, pressure, and quality of the natural gas used by the customer into the dollars on the customer’s monthly bill. Right from the start, I quickly surmised that the Company was lax in fulfilling its duty of accurately and fairly billing its customers. And then I found out that they were deliberately disregarding their obligations to the Oregon Public Utility Commission in spending the money necessary to ensure an acceptable level of billing accuracy. Indeed, a senior vice-President told the manager in charge to not budget for the removal of inaccurate (and billing too much) meters because he didn’t think the OPUC was watching. (Saving money in this way increases the company’s profit, and with this, executives get bigger bonuses.)

    I tried to work in the background to get the Company to do the right thing, and catch up in all the areas it had neglected. In my persistence, I started losing the office-politics war, and developed the persona of a rogue and non-Team Player. In one of the areas that the Company was neglecting badly, the OPUC finally caught the Company in the act, but my boss threw me under the bus and placed the blame on me. I barely survived, but my career was flatlined. Finally, one of the most credibility-lacking components of measurement that the Company was employing — that I had been advocating for years to be replaced — was failing miserably for the two big paper mills near Oregon City (causing up to 7% overbilling). Much effort was made by management to cover up this fact after the paper mill inquired as to why they seemed to be using a lot more gas than normal. Shortly thereafter, Blue Heron Paper Mill (using $tens of millions of natural gas yearly just like other paper mills) went bankrupt, and 180 employees lost their family-wage jobs. (And adding insult to injury, the Manager of Credit told me that NW Natural was illegally hiding a $35,000 deposit (that the paper mill needed to escape Chapter 11 bankruptcy) from the Chapter 7 bankruptcy court.) This caused a personal crisis for me, as I came to realize that my efforts in the background to get the company to correct its measurement standards and practices were failing, people were being hurt, I was fearing the loss of my ability to adequately provide for my family, and NW Natural and its executives were profiting off its malfeasance. It was also becoming increasingly obvious that the Company was slowly but surely reassigning me away from measurement so as to remove the irritant and shut me up. One of the projects they assigned to me was to help expand the system (that was sending low-quality gas to those paper mills) to all of east Portland, and they were just finishing a project to send that same gas down to Salem. No money was being spent to improve the measurement system so that it would fairly bill this low-quality gas. I was getting very angry at this on the job, and was taking this anger home with me, causing concern from my wife and children. Finally, when I realized my anger had reached the point that I was at risk of doing something stupid, I took family medical leave, removing myself from the workplace environment. While on family medical leave, I realized that I needed to get this stuff off my chest, so I filed complaints of ethical misconduct internally, enumerating all of the ethical violations I had seen the Company commit over the years. I decided to do this even though I believed that this would cost me my job, and career in engineering — trying to prod a hopelessly corrupt organization to change for the better just wasn’t worth the harm it was causing me and my family anymore.

    Here’s where the tie to US Rep District 3 comes in: NW Natural was compelled by law to investigate my allegations of ethical misconduct. That investigation was overseen by Margaret Kirkpatrick, Executive vice-President and Chief Legal Counsel for NW Natural. She is also the wife of Earl Blumenauer, incumbent US Representative, District 3! Her investigation came to the conclusion that no laws were broken, and there were no ethical violations. She did not explain why there were no ethical violations, saying it was against the law to disclose this information to me. I was thanked for reporting my concerns, told that I had performed my duty, and told to go away.

    I didn’t go away. I decided to write emails — distributed to managers, directors, and vice-Presidents — that made sure nobody could claim they didn’t know what the Company was up to. I even disclosed an email in which a manager hoped that NW Natural would not “get caught” by the OPUC that we were significantly overbilling our customers because of our gross billing negligence. I was also pressing hard to have Kirkpatrick explain to me why the obvious ethical violations were not violations of the Company’s Code of Ethics. With the Company not responding to my internal complaints, I took the matter to the OPUC. And when the OPUC seemingly deferred, I informed the union steward of the shutdown paper mill of what NW Natural had concealed, and he turned it over to Senator Jeff Merkley’s office. Finally, in my final push to try to understand how NW Natural could conclude that nobody had violated its Code of Ethics, I alluded in an email to how important it was for me to get closure on the issue, as evidenced in my having to take family medical leave months earlier. With this, Kirkpatrick seized on these words, and had me escorted out of the building, citing that my reference to my family medical leave constituted a “risk of violence to fellow employees”.

    I was put on paid administrative leave while they tried to figure out what to do with me. They paid a psychologist to purposely do a hatchet job on my character to validate that I posed a risk of violence in the workplace. The end came three months later with a letter of termination citing the reason for firing a 12-year employee being that I had used my personal email account to transfer Company information, and that I shared Company information with a person (the union steward) that had no valid business purpose. (This is how they got around the illegality of firing a whistleblower.)

    The CEO at NW Natural at the time was the former press secretary for Neil Goldschmidt’s last gubernatorial campaign. Before that, the CEO was Mark Dodson, who was a college buddy of Neil Goldschmidt, and whose wife was Goldschmidt’s personal secretary during the time of Goldschmidt’s rapes. All these well-connected people (and many others) have enriched themselves by being operatives in Oregon’s vast and dominating political machine. Why were these people — no technical brilliance, no business brilliance, no experience in utility operations — placed within the executive ranks and then CEO at NW Natural? Because the best way for NW Natural — the regulated monopoly — to make profits is not through innovation or efficiency, but with making deals with the OPUC in Salem. A member of Oregon’s political machine can do this very well. Just ask Ron Eachus. Good ol’ boys (and girls) and their family members of the political machine get enriched and are proclaimed pillars of the community; dupe engineers like me get ostracized, demoted, and pushed out the door. That’s the way it is in our country and government, and that’s the way Earl Blumenauer and his wife like it. I don’t.

    Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a campaign to run, and an axe to grind.

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