Senator = Fat Cat


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Bill Frist, Senate majority leader and a leading GOP candidate for president in 2008, is making a killing off the big Bush dividend tax cut enacted while he was running the Senate. The 2003 legislation dropped the tax on dividends from 35 to 15 percent.

In the latest round of Senate financial disclosures, Frist, of Tennessee, reported earnings of up to $5 million in income from the W.H. Frist 2000 Qualified Blind Trust. The assets in this trust are valued at from $5 million to $25 million. Frist reported earnings of up to $5 million from the W.H. Frist 2000 Qualified Blind Trust.

Others members of America’s richest club have been making money hand over fist, too. The reports show South Dakota’s newly elected Republican senator John Thune, who gave up his lobbying job to be senator, got $231,222 from the Thune Group.

Alaska’s senator Ted Stevens, who heads the powerful Commerce Committee and is a key player in energy policy, reported the Ted Stevens Blind Trust at $1 million to $5 million and listed an oil interest in Oklahoma City as valued at between $50,000 and $100,000. His credit union account was valued at between $250,000 and $500,000.

Democrats were also in Fat City. John Corzine of New Jersey, who opposed the Bush tax cuts, listed holdings in his former employer Goldman Sachs at between $25 million and $50 million, with dividends of $100,000 to $1 million.

Frist, by the way, reported buying less than $15,000 of stock in the Southern doughnut chain Krispy Kreme; and he put somewhere under $15,000 into two hospitals. His father and brother ran HCA (the Hospital Corporation of America), the nation’s biggest hospital chain, which was once charged with overbilling the government. The case was settled in 2002 for $1.7 billion.

Members of Congress have been going through the motions of curbing gifts, free trips, and other perks. For example, senators gave a total of $87,000 of honoraria they otherwise would have pocketed to charities. But for every little reform, a new and bigger boondoggle comes to light.

Since 2000, members of Congress have taken some 5,914 free trips, taking their spouses along on 2,103 of them. The Web site Political Money Line reports this year on sumptuous spousal tours, including a roundtable on the 21st century sponsored in Germany by the International Management and Development Institute (headed by former congressman Don Bonker) together with BDI (The Federation of German Industries). Round trip tickets for two costing $15,900 were a gift, and when they landed in Munich, the lucky lawmakers attended the roundtable while their spouses took off on a whirlwind extravaganza—a look at the finest in Bavarian porcelain, a stop at the plush Summer Residence, a Faberge/Cartier exhibition, and a gala dinner. The trip wound up in Lichtenstein, for a reception held at the splendid Veduz Castle.

Additional reporting: Natalie Wittlin, Halley Bondy