A look at personal finances of Ohio candidates for US Senate


By Julie Carr Smyth - Associated Press



COLUMBUS, Ohio — Now that all three major-party candidates seeking U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s seat next year have filed their reports, here’s a look at how their personal finances compare.

Portman’s Democratic challengers — former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Cincinnati city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld — face off next spring for the chance to take on the incumbent Republican in fall 2016.

___

TIMING DIFFERENCES

Strickland’s report was filed Tuesday, after he was granted a 90-day extension that Republicans criticized as showing a lack of transparency. The Strickland campaign said extensions are common and that he needed the extra time to assure reporting accuracy.

Portman filed his personal financial disclosure report in May, along with other sitting senators. Sittenfeld filed his in June.

Candidate reports include income and assets from January 2014 through the filing date of their report. Portman’s report was for calendar year 2014.

___

WHAT THEY EARNED

Portman, 59, listed no income, since his federal Senate salary was not required to be listed. In 2014, he earned $174,000 as a senator.

Strickland, 74, reported earning $250,386 before taxes as president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the political arm of a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C. He also earned $20,000 as a consultant to the Bipartisan Policy Center; $36,752 from a pension at the Shawnee State University; $25,487 from an IRA; and $25,000 as a consultant to a Cleveland law firm.

Republicans questioned the absence of any income listings for Strickland from Innovation Ohio, a Columbus-based think tank launched by former aides after he lost the 2010 election, or the consulting firm Midwest Gateway Partners. Strickland helped both get off the ground after leaving the Governor’s Office but spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue said Strickland wasn’t paid by either entity. She said he did receive a stipend from the State Department from September to December 2013 while serving as an alternate representative to the United Nations, but income from that federal source wasn’t required to be reported.

Sittenfeld, 30, reported making $88,440 as a councilman and $55,087 as a part-time assistant director of the Community Learning Center Institute, which helps develop ties between local schools, their communities and neighborhoods.

___

WHAT THEY’RE WORTH

Portman’s net worth is between $8 million and $20 million, when his wife and children’s assets are included. A 2013 analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics ranked him as the 15th wealthiest senator in Congress.

Strickland holds assets, with wife Frances, totaling between about $300,000 and $700,000, including checking and savings account balances. His net worth has increased by between three and seven times since he left the U.S. House in 2006 to become governor. At that time, the Center for Responsive Politics ranked him among the least wealthy in Congress, at 365th out of about 435 members. Strickland’s worth today also would rank him on the low end among senators.

Sittenfeld reported assets of $329,178. A little more than half of his holdings are in retirement accounts. His non-retirement assets are primarily in corporate securities and mutual funds.

___

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Portman and Strickland camps each cite the other’s financial disclosures as a sign of being out of touch.

Portman campaign spokesman Corry Bliss said Strickland made his money in lobbying for special interests and is being opaque about his financial connection to the two organizations launched since he left the governor’s office.

“With his hypocrisy and dishonesty how can anybody trust him to fix Washington when he personifies everything that’s wrong with it?” Bliss said.

Strickland’s campaign paints Portman’s wealth as a negative.

“From passing trade agreements that let his campaign donors ship Ohio jobs overseas, to voting to cut Medicare so he can increase tax breaks for millionaires, Senator Portman is just one more millionaire in Washington looking out for the interests of billionaires,” said his campaign spokesman Dennis Willard.

___

WHY IT MATTERS

Campaigns often use personal financial disclosure reports to highlight their talking points about a candidate’s wealth, but Center for Responsive Politics executive director Sheila Krumholz said the forms are primarily intended to alert the public to potential conflicts of interest among congressional delegates.

“There is an important dialogue around whether candidates can appreciate the hardships their potential constituents must face, but once they’re in office the presumption is that they are setting aside their own interests and really looking out for the interests of their constituents and seeking their perspectives,” she said. “So here are the members and candidates telling us what their financial interests are directly and by arming ourselves with those facts, we can guard against those conflicts and really protect the integrity of our entire democracy

By Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press