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STOCK Act forces Congress to reveal personal mortgages for the first time

Posted by: Corey Mitchell under Minnesota U.S. senators, Minnesota congressional, Democrats, Republicans Updated: June 15, 2012 - 9:06 AM

For years, the financial disclosure forms for members of Congress did not require them to reveal details about their personal residences, only for homes that were used for rental properties that generated income.

That changed this year when Congress approved STOCK Act, an ethics law that clarified insider trading laws to prevent lawmakers and staff members from making financial trades based on non-public information gleaned from their work on Capitol Hill. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota's First Congressional District helped shepherd the law through Congress.

Under the new disclosure rules, members of Congress also must reveal existing mortgages for personal residences -- both in and outside the Beltway -- and list the creditors and the date the mortgage was obtained.

For example, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison owes between $250,000 and $600,000 on mortgages.

Reps. Betty McCollum and John Kline are among the members who own homes in Washington, D.C., and their districts back in Minnesota. They each owe between $200,000 and $500,000 on the residences.

The bill has also required lawmakers to report stock and security trades more frequently.

In 2011, U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen owned stocks in dozens of securities and stocks, including between $1,000 amd $15,000 in Medtronic stock. He owes between $15,000 and $50,000 on his home.

Those are just a few of the details found in the documents released Thursday. The disclosure forms also reveal assets and liabilities -- such as credit card debt exceeding $15,000 -- and stock holdings along with privately-funded trips.

The disclosure forms allow members of Congress significant leeway in reporting the value of assets and liabilities, affording lawmakers broad reporting ranges. The value of an investment worth $245,000 would be listed in a category between $100,000 and $250,000, for example.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar listed assets of between $310,000 to $1.05 million with no debt. She had the highest net worth among the Minnesota lawmakers who reported their finances Thursday.

Four Minnesota lawmakers -- Republicans Reps. Michele Bachmann and Chip Cravaack and Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson -- filed for 90-day extensions to the May 15 filing deadline. Their disclosures forms are now due August 13.

Bachmann filed for the extension "in order to provide honest information," said spokeswoman Becky Rogness.

Bachmann, Cravaack and Franken also requested extensions in 2011. Based on those filings, all three had a higher net worth than Klobuchar last year.

Based on an analysis of the filings, Ellison had the lowest net worth among Minnesota's members of Congress with assets of $34,000 or less and potential debt up to $615,000, mostly tied to his mortgages.

To review the disclosure forms for U.S. House members, click here.

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