The Senate Republican Millionaires Caucus


The Senate Republican Millionaires Caucus

A Look at the Wealth and Privilege of the Washington State Senate Republicans

Introduction

A detailed new analysis of public records shows that at least half of the Senate Republicans - 14 in total - have a net worth of $1 million or more. Despite having benefited the most from our schools, roads, and other public infrastructure, they continue to cling to an anti- tax platform that has caused those public investments to crumble. In particular, the Senate Republicans - led by multi-millionaire Andy Hill - have steadfastly opposed a capital gains tax on the wealthiest few to fund education. The Senate Republicans' opposition to this proposal is particularly noteworthy given that many of them could be subject to a capital gains tax, depending on how they choose to liquidate their extensive assets. Rather than building a Washington that works for everyone, the "Millionaires Caucus" has undermined the same pathways to opportunity they traveled themselves.

The 2015 Members of the Republican Millionaires Caucus:

  1. Sen. Linda Evans Parlette ($5,709,123)
  2. Sen. Andy Hill ($3,818,740)
  3. Sen. Tim Sheldon ($3,075,260)
  4. Sen. Steve Litzow ($2,808,236)2
  5. Sen. Don Benton ($2,573,610)
  6. Sen. John Braun ($2,276,903)
  7. Sen. Bruce Dammeier ($2,267,055)
  8. Sen. Mike Hewitt (1,945,190)
  9. Sen. Mark Schoesler (1,754,311)
  10. Sen. Jan Angel ($1,350,351)
  11. Sen. Sharon Brown ($1,292,446)
  12. Sen. Judy Warnick ($1,221,851)
  13. Sen. Pam Roach ($1,075,238)
  14. Sen. Curtis King ($1,003,337)

Government Of the Millionaires, By The Millionaires, And For The Millionaires

No one becomes wealthy in isolation. We all rely on the schools, roads, and public infrastructure that are the foundation of our economy. The financial success of the Senate Republicans shows that they have reaped great benefits from these public goods. Yet after earning incredible wealth, they are now making it more difficult for families across Washington to achieve prosperity and economic security as well.

The Washington Supreme Court has ordered the legislature to invest billions of dollars more into our K-12 public education system. In addition, this spring's Elway poll showed that for the first time in six years, voters named education as the "most important" issue for the Legislature to address this year. Yet after earning incredible wealth, they are now making it more difficult for families across Washington to achieve prosperity and economic security as well.

Despite this broad public support and legal mandate, the Republican-controlled Senate has headed in the opposite direction. Instead of adding new revenue to fund education, Sen. Andy Hill and the Senate Republicans have relied on budget gimmicks and redirecting marijuana taxes away from voter-approved public health programs. This plan has been broadly condemned by editorial boards as "smoke-and-mirrors budget tactics", "a shell game", and "rely[ing] on likely unsustainable gimmicks and fund transfers."

On the other side, progressive leaders in the state House have stepped up to address our "paramount duty" to fund education by proposing a capital gains tax on the wealthiest Washingtonians. Notably, 42 other states already tax the sale of stocks and bonds, and Washington's capital gains tax rate would be among the lowest of Western states. A capital gains tax would provide our schools with a long-overdue, sustainable source of new revenue that would help ensure all our state's students have the opportunity to succeed.

Unfortunately, Sen. Andy Hill and his Republican colleagues have widely rejected all calls for new revenue to fund education. Recently, Hill went so far as to call a progressive capital gains tax "unconscionable." The Senate Republicans' opposition to this proposal is particularly noteworthy given that as many as a majority of them - 14 - could be subject to a capital gains tax, depending on how they chose to liquidate their extensive assets.

Beyond the capital gains tax, the Millionaire Caucus has blocked efforts to increase the minimum wage, pass paid sick leave, require equal pay for women, give state workers a raise, and allow home health care workers to earn retirement benefits, just to name a few. They have consistently opposed legislation that would give working people the opportunity to support their family and improve their economic security.

Fuse also analyzed the finances of the Senate Democrats and found the story to be quite different on the other side of the aisle. Just nine of 23 of the Senate Democrats have assets of $1 million or more: Frockt, McAuliffe, Mullet, Nelson, Fraser, Pederson, Jayapal, Rolfes, and Billig. More importantly, those members support making the wealthy pay their fair share to fund education, as well as supporting paid sick leave, raising the minimum wage, and other economic security measures.

The Millionaires

In 2014, 14 members of the Senate Republicans reported assets of more than $1 million dollars. Caucus-wide, they control nearly $35 million dollars in assets. Most of this wealth is contained in real estate holdings ($27 million) and investment portfolios ($7 million). Banking, life insurance policies, and other small holdings round out the rest.

As a caucus, they hold assets worth nearly $35 million. Most of this wealth is contained in real estate holdings ($27 million) and investment portfolios ($7 million).

When both assessor data and Zillow data existed we averaged the two and noted it with a 2, and when only assessor data existed we noted it with a 1.

1. Sen. Linda Evans Parlette ($5,709,123)2

Sen. Evans Parlette and her husband reported owning 25 parcels of land in Chelan and Okanogan counties, which include an office building in Wenatchee, orchards in Leavenworth, and waterfront property on the south end of Lake Chelan. Her various properties are worth nearly $5 million alone. She also reported more than 150 stocks and investment accounts.

2. Sen. Andy Hill ($3,818,740) 2

Senator Hill has made headlines with his extensive stock portfolio, which last year totaled 25 accounts and investment funds. Despite appearing to have liquidated 9 of these - totaling at least $900,000 - Senator Hill's investment portfolio is still worth a minimum of $1.72 million and likely much more. He reports earning more than a half-million dollars in income in the last year from these holdings. Despite this extensive stock portfolio and income, earlier this year Hill called a progressive capital gains tax to fund education "unconscionable".

3. Sen. Tim Sheldon ($3,075,260)1

Sen. Sheldon appears to own all or part of more than 27 properties in Mason County, some of which he leases to the state Dept. of Transportation and Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. He also holds several investment accounts of more than $120,000 each and collects nearly $80,000 from his Mason County Commissioner salary.

4. Sen. Steve Litzow ($2,808,236)2

Sen. Litzow owns three properties in Bellingham totaling more than $1 million. In addition, King County Assessor records show that he owns a Mercer Island residence valued at $721,000 (the same address he lists as a mailing address). These properties, in addition to his investment accounts, consulting positions, and three checking accounts bring his assets to nearly $3 million.

5. Sen. Don Benton ($2,573,610)2

Sen. Benton owns six properties in Clark County as well as investment accounts worth more than $1 million. He receives salary and pension benefits from his position as state Senator, as well as $114,000 a year from his position as the Director of Clark County Environmental Services.

6. Sen. John Braun ($2,276,903)1

Sen. Braun's wealth comes primarily from his myriad real estate parcels. He owns 29 properties in Lewis County in part or out-right, and has stakes in multiple businesses. He also has several retirement accounts and at least $168,000 in checking and savings accounts.

7. Sen. Bruce Dammeier ($2,267,055)2

The stock market gains of 2013 were a boon to Sen. Dammeier. He earned more than $144,000 in 2014 income from stocks and bonds. He also owns three properties - in Pierce, Thurston, and Pima, AZ, counties - and sold a vacation cabin last year.

8. Sen. Mike Hewitt ($1,945,190)2

Sen. Hewitt's assets come primarily from his land holdings in eastern Washington, a waterfront view condo in Olympia, and several pensions.

9. Sen. Mark Schoesler ($1,754,311)1

Sen. Schoesler received at least $48,000 in crop payments from the United States Department of Agriculture in 2014. In addition, his 14 properties in Adams County alone add up to $987,000.

10. Sen. Jan Angel ($1,350,351)2

Sen. Angel's wealth is held in seven properties, including a $400,000 home in Maple Valley. She has at least $168,000 in checking and savings accounts as well as several retirement accounts

11. Sen. Sharon Brown ($1,292,446)1

Sen. Brown appears to be invested in a series of companies involved in real estate development. Through HB Consortium, Brown holds a piece of $5.4 million dollar mall development, and combined with other properties she has $1.3 million in real estate alone.

12. Sen. Judy Warnick ($1,221,851)1

Sen. Warnick won election to the Senate last year to replace Janea Holmquist-Newbry as Senate from Moses Lake. Warnick holds more than $860,000 in real estate properties under her name and her business, as well as investments in an IRA and full ownership with her spouse of Credit Services of Central Washington, a debt collection agency.

13. Sen. Pam Roach ($1,075,239)2

Due to property appreciation of nearly $74,000, Sen. Roach this year joins the Senate millionaires list. She owns three properties, including a rental house in San Diego and another rental property in Sumner, WA, collectively worth $750,000. Roach also has a money market account of more than $120,000.

14. Sen. Curtis King ($1,003,337)2

Sen. King's wealth is largely held in his investment, including four each worth at least $120,000. He also has at least $120,000 in checking and savings accounts, and a mortgage-free home in Yakima.

In addition, while the following two Senators don't quite make it into our conservative asset valuing, they could easily bump above $1 million given their holdings in real estate and investments.

15. Sen. Randi Becker ($936,905)2

Sen. Becker owns three properties in Pierce and Clackamas Counties that comprise half of her net worth. The rest of her wealth is held in banking accounts, pensions, and investments.

16. Sen. Joe Fain ($909,339)2

Sen. Joe Fain saw his two King County properties appreciate $174,000 in the past year. These two properties - a home in Auburn and a condo on Seattle's First Hill - form the basis of his wealth, which is more than $1 million before mortgage deductions.

Methodology

The Public Disclosure Commission requires that elected officials and candidates file yearly reports detailing their financial affairs. These F–1 Personal Financial Affairs forms specify ranges for asset and income values.

Dollar Code:
A: $1 – $4,499
B: $4,500 – $23,999
C: $24,000 – $47,999
D: $48,000 – $119,999
E: $120,000+

Fuse compiled the most recent data on Senators' net worth through their 2015 F–1 Statements, which were due in April. We augmented this information with county assessor property data, corporation data from the Secretary of State, Zillow data (a real estate website that values properties based on neighboring houses' sale costs), and other public records.

Where we could find property value records through both a county assessor's office and Zillow, we calculated the average of the two values. In the few cases where we could not find both sets of data – which happened more frequently in rural farm and timberland parcels – we used only assessor data, which tends to be a more conservative estimate.

An additional complication came from an update to the PDC range amounts in 2014, which increased the dollar value of ranges by up to $20,000 (for example, the 2014 form's top range was $100,000+, but the update increases that to $120,000+). In 2015, legislators could use either the old form or the updated one, and we have based our calculations on the range used on specific form each individual filled out. In instances where legislators filed "no change" reports using the new asset ranges, we have updated to those ranges.

We assumed the low–end of all asset value ranges in order to be cautious with our estimates. For example, we listed an "E" asset as $120,000, the lowest possible value. When mortgages, car loans, or other debts were listed, we deducted the same end of the asset range from the total (for example, most mortgages will deduct $120,000 in our calculations). We also included spousal assets (when listed) to be consistent with F–1 requirements. We believe that in many cases our estimates of net worth will be lower – potentially much lower – than a Senator's true net worth because "$120,000+" is the highest category on F–1 forms.

Throughout this research we have tried to be as thorough and meticulous as possible. However, we are limited by the accuracy of the underlying data. We found many errors in the self–reported data of the officially filed F–1s, which ranged from typos in addresses and parcel numbers to unreported properties and government salaries. In addition, the broad ranges for asset values made it difficult to ascertain exact numbers. We tried to corroborate the data from multiple sources, especially when it appeared incorrect, inconsistent, or unusual.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the hard–working staff of the Public Disclosure Commission for providing F–1 forms very quickly. We hope that F–1 forms will be posted online in the future to improve transparency and facilitate more research like this. We also hope that the Commission's budget will be increased, so they can continue their important work, of which this is only one facet.

We also appreciate the help of many county officials who patiently answered our questions about property and real estate records. Thanks in particular to the county assessors' staff in Benton, Clackamas, Lewis, King, Kitsap, Mason, Spokane, Walla Walla, and Umatilla counties.

About Fuse

Fuse is the state's largest progressive organization - people creating change online, on the ground, and on issues that matter. We envision a Washington where everyone who works hard and plays by the rules can be part of a secure middle class and help create a better world for our children. Learn more at www.FuseWashington.org.

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