In the wake of the Watergate Scandal, several acts and amendments were passed to reinforce ethics among the three branches of the U.S. government. One of these acts was the Ethics In Government Act of 1978. Its purpose - requiring all members of Congress and their staff to disclose publicly their financial holdings and sources of income - is to promote transparency and prevent conflicts of interest between governmental duties and private financial interests.
Among the most notable publications made freely available as a result of this act is Form 278, managed by the Office of Government Ethics, which is a financial disclosure report reserved for personnel holding office in the executive branch. This form lists sources of income for officials, either from personal assets or from paying positions held outside of the government.
Last spring, we provided a summary of President Barack Obama's financial portfolio, highlighting that the majority of his investments are in U.S. Treasury Bills and notes, as well as in diversified funds. This year, a new batch of Republican hopefuls are vying for the role of commander-in-chief and, just as we did for Obama, we'll summarize and examine what has been revealed about the opponents and their investing styles. The following candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
As the first candidate to file his Form 278, former Georgia congressman and speaker of the house, Newt Gingrich, revealed his assets in his and his wife's Gingrich Productions. Below these holdings the disclosure report lists investments in a number of managed funds including Fidelity Short Interest Municipal Income Fund, PIMCO and Franklin Templeton, as well as a high number of certificate of deposits (CDs) with values ranging between $100,000 and $250,000 each.
Gingrich is also invested in a number of small companies through the DFJ Fund VIII. These investments, together with liabilities and his positions in stocks and funds valued below $15,000, bring Newt Gingrich's net worth up to over $30 million.
Often touted as the black sheep of the Republican candidates, Senator Ron Paul of Texas holds a portfolio unlike the others. With a net worth up to $5.4 million, Paul's investments are primarily devoted to gold and silver mining companies, making up more than 60% of his portfolio. These companies include Barrick Gold, Gold Corp, Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp and Canadian-based micro-cap firms, such as Eldorado Gold and Silver Wheaton.
With gold's role as a long buy-and-hold investment and safe haven, Ron Paul's portfolio resonates a very macroeconomic (and, arguably, pessimistic) view of the economy's health. Regardless, given the strong performance of some of the companies he holds, Paul's strategy appears to be working well for him, as his net worth exceeds $5 million.
Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney filed his 2010 OGE Form 278 in August of last year, listing assets which in total value as high as $260 million. As a co-founder of Bain Capital, Romney is well-versed in finance, and the choices of investments in his family's portfolio echo it. He holds various asset classes such as Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) notes with listed maturity dates, real estate, hedge funds, mutual funds, ETFs, gold and private equity.
Most notably at the top of his list of assets, Romney holds between $5 million and $25 million in Goldman Sachs Financial Square Federal Fund - FST Shares, as well as in BCIP Trust Associates III. Romney maintains numerous blind trusts managed by Goldman Sachs that have been the subject of much scrutiny by the press.
In his September 27 Form 278 filing, former Pennsylvanian Senator, Rick Santorum, tops his investments with holdings in real estate. His ownership of 306 Beaver Plaza apartments (603, 604 and 610 Beaver Terrace), accounts for between $500,000 and $1.25 million of assets. Following these properties, the bulk of Santorum's investments lie in mutual funds, specifically in American Funds, which are held in his IRA, spousal IRA and 529 plans for his children. In addition, Rick Santorum maintained small positions in a number of stocks and ETFs, including Fabrinet, Apple and SPDR Gold Trust.
Collectively, along with his other holdings and liabilities, Santorum wields a net worth close to $2.7 million.
SEE: What's Your Net Worth Telling You?
The Bottom Line
The clichéd maxim of "actions speak louder than words" holds some relevance when weighing campaign promises of political candidates with their own financial interests. Further research into the financial wheeling and dealings of these would-be presidents can serve to better develop your thoughts and opinions on the candidates before election - and can even dictate the direction you wish to take in your own investing path.
The financial disclosure reports for each candidate are readily available to the public, which voters can make use of in deciding on a potential runner against Obama. However, as the weeks before the election come to a close, amendments to these disclosures have cropped up (such in the case of Mitt Romney's 2010 tax forms missing assets listed in his disclosure) bringing into question the integrity of some of these candidates.
In the end, Form 278 serves the purpose of painting a more rounded portrait of the candidates' characters. Presidential candidates will pitch their platforms and promise new and better ways the country can be run, yet, it is recorded documents such as these that can show whether or not their promises hold any water.
SEE: The Presidential Resume.