Begich tops Murkowski, Young in estimated worth

Sean Cockerham | Tribune Media Services

Sen. Mark Begich appears to be the most affluent among the Alaska congressional delegation, with a net worth estimated by the Center for Responsive Politics at $2.3 million.

But Begich is a pauper compared to many of his colleagues, ranking 174th out of the 535 members of Congress in estimated net worth. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski ranked 205th on the list, with an estimate of $1.7 million.

Alaska Rep. Don Young's estimated net worth of $840,000 put him down at 279th among the members of Congress.

It's a tough crowd to compete in, with 47 percent of Congress figured to be millionaires. California Rep. Darrell Issa tops the list with a net worth pegged at $448.1 million. Seven others each have a net worth of more than $100 million.

The numbers are just estimates because members of Congress are required to disclose assets and liabilities only in broad ranges.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, recently came up with the estimates by averaging each member of Congress' lowest and highest possible net worth. The analysis is based on the most recently available disclosures, covering 2010.

The numbers include a spouse's assets but the disclosures don't have to include the value of lawmakers' personal residences or any mortgages owed on them, The Begich and Murkowski families both own Washington, D.C., row houses that are valued at more than $800,000, for example, and that's not included in the disclosure reports.

The disclosures also don't require lawmakers to list their annual $174,000 congressional salaries. They do list stocks and other investments.

Members of Congress are required to file the disclosure forms every year to give the public a glimpse at their investments, personal wealth and potential conflicts of interest. The next forms, covering 2011, will be released in June.

Begich reported assets in Nevada, where he's part owner of the Carson Hot Springs Resort. The resort's website says that in 1999 "a group of investors headed by Mark Begich of Anchorage, Alaska, purchased the springs with the goal of bringing it back to its glory days." It's a casual place with a big outdoor pool for $10 a day and little private pools for extra charges.

The Reno Gazette-Journal ran a story after Begich beat Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008, describing how Begich and his wife, Deborah Bonito, came across the hot springs while veering from a road trip through California and decided to go ahead and buy it.

Other assets listed by Begich included his wife's interests in the Kobuk Coffee Co. store in downtown Anchorage -- which a pickup and its allegedly drunken driver smashed into this spring -- and Sourdough Mercantile, a gift shop at the airport.

Begich and Bonito are paying off commercial loans in Anchorage and Nevada on properties and, since the exact value of such liabilities is not required to be disclosed, his net worth could be a lot less or more than estimated.

Among Begich's reported stocks were between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of stock in Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, which is testing a colorectal cancer drug. He listed his wife's investments, including between $15,000 and $50,000 each in stocks including Kraft, KeyCorp, Regal Entertainment Group, Excel Energy and the National Bank of Greece.

Murkowski's financial disclosure form included shares worth between $15,000 and $50,000 in Wells Fargo bank. Murkowski reported $272,000 from the sale of a building on E Street in Anchorage that used to house her husband Verne Martell's pasta company, as well as $10,000 in continuing payments from the 2010 sale of Alaska Pasta Co.

Young, Alaska's lone member of the U.S. House since 1973, reported between $100,000 and $250,000 in the Putnam Fund for Growth, an investment fund.

He also listed more than $100,000 in an account with the congressional credit union and retirement accounts of between $65,000 and $150,000. Young reported $5,329 as his state pension from his time as a teacher and in the state Legislature.

Reach Sean Cockerham at or 257-4344.

Anchorage Daily News