Tom Kacich: She's worth how much?
Things seem to be upside-down in Illinois' 13th Congressional District election campaign.
The Republican incumbent, Rodney Davis, is the less wealthy candidate with assets totaling between $190,022 and $750,000, and liabilities between $100,001 and $250,000. By one 2012 estimate, he ranked 334th among the 435 House members in net worth.
The other candidate, Democrat Ann Callis, is the one arguing for a higher minimum wage and against "massive tax cuts for millionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas" while "fighting for the middle class." She also is the one with a net worth of somewhere between $5.1 million and $14.1 million. She listed no liabilities.
(Assets and liabilities are reported to the clerk of the U.S. House in ranges rather than in precise amounts. Filers are asked to disclose the values of assets in ranges such as $1 to $1,000 or $250,001 to $500,000).
If she was in Congress today, Callis probably would rank among or close to the 50 richest members of the House, based on a recent Roll Call study of congressional wealth.
Callis recently filed her U.S. House financial disclosure statement — in May she had asked for a 90-day extension — and it lists a host of properties, businesses, stocks and funds owned by Callis and her husband, St. Louis attorney James P. Holloran, whom were married in 2002.
Virtually all of the assets, however, are listed in the disclosure report as a "spouse" asset, not something held jointly.
Although the disclosure statement lists properties in St. Louis; Breckenridge, Colo.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and O'Fallon, Mo., it does not list any property held in the 13th District. Many of the properties — including McGurk's Saloons in St. Louis and O'Fallon, Mo. — are owned by H&C Partnership, of which 90 percent is held by Holloran and 10 percent by James P. Holloran, PC. Callis has zero interest in any of the properties, said Callis campaign spokesman David Miyashiro. The C in H&C Partnership does not stand for Callis, he said.
At least one Callis asset — her home in Troy — was not reported. Those filing financial disclosure reports are not required to reveal the value of their personal residence unless it generates income, so her home is not included in the filing. The Troy home is just outside of the congressional district, so Callis now lives in a rental property in Edwardsville, which is in the district.
In addition to funds held by Callis, her husband owns stocks including Cablevision Systems, AMC Networks, Madison Square Garden, AT&T, Honeywell, Anheuser Busch Inbev, Cisco Systems, Kroger, Pepsico, Procter & Gamble, Roche, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney and Wellpoint.
Coincidentally, both Davis and Holloran report owning between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of stock in McDonalds Corp.
Miyashiro said the Callis campaign doesn't believe voters in the 13th District — where the mean household income in 2012 was estimated by the Census Bureau at $60,563 — will feel disconnected from the Democratic candidate and her wealth.
"Over her 18-year career as a judge, Ann has always fought to protect her community, stand up for those who needed help, and treat every single person with respect," he said, referring to Callis' tenure as a judge in Illinois' Third Judicial Circuit, including about seven years as chief judge of the circuit. "Ann shares the values of her constituents and has vigorously advocated for policies that would help struggling Illinois families, like raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and demanding equal pay for equal work.
"Voters care less about candidates' personal finances and more about how they will help them in Congress, which is why people are frustrated that Congressman Davis continues to defend a do-nothing Congress while hiring lobbyists and treating special interests to $40,000 at lavish Washington steakhouses," Miyashiro said.
The latter statements are in reference to Callis charges that Davis' chief of staff, Jen Daulby, is a former lobbyist for Land O' Lakes, and that his campaign finance report disclosed expenditures of $38,834 in 2013 and 2014 at four top D.C. restaurants, including the Capitol Hill Club, a Republican social club.
Davis spokesman Andrew Flach said the Republicans don't plan to highlight Callis' wealth.
"If that's an issue, it will be up to the voters to decide," he said.
That's probably a good idea, said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and the former chief political writer at The Des Moines Register. Part of the calculus for the Davis campaign, he noted, is that Bruce Rauner, who is far richer than Callis and her husband, is at the top of the Republican ticket.
"It will be difficult for the Republicans to make that attack because they don't want to be shooting at her and hitting Rauner. They'd have to be careful how this is done," Yepsen said. "If the campaign moves in that direction, it could just confuse voters."
Still, Callis has to be careful how she presents herself in the last 10 weeks of the campaign, said Yepsen.
"The populist theme is very popular this year. People are disaffected, angry. A lot of people feel left out of the prosperity. It's fertile ground for populists and someone could say, how could she know our problems if she has this kind of money?" Yepsen said. "Is there anything she does or has happen that would reinforce the idea that she's elitist? Is she seen windsurfing at Cape Cod? Those kind of pictures. Or does she have her Carhartt jacket?
University of Illinois political scientist Brian Gaines said Callis "is a bit hemmed in by her own circumstances in how far she can play up class warfare" against Davis.
"(U.S. Sen.) Elizabeth Warren and some other well-off Democrats seem to manage that trick, but there's certainly a risk of the rhetoric seeming insincere coming from someone who is plainly a millionaire," he said.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 217-351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.