Berg, Hoeven required to comply with new rulesFARGO — Republicans Rick Berg and John Hoeven both made their millions in successful business dealings, but they might go to the U.S. Congress next month with a few less pennies in their pockets.
By: By Kristen Daum, Forum Communications Co. , The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Republicans Rick Berg and John Hoeven both made their millions in successful business dealings, but they might go to the U.S. Congress next month with a few less pennies in their pockets.
Ethics rules are strict on what sort of business dealings or investments members of Congress can have while in office – so Berg and Hoeven have some evaluating to do to ensure they play by the rules.
The intent is to prevent conflicts of interest — such as personal gain — from influencing the various legislation members craft and vote on.
To ensure transparency, members of Congress also are required to file annual financial disclosure statements, detailing their and their spouse’s investments in everything from retirement accounts to real estate property.
To comply with the new rules placed upon them by their congressional duties, Berg and Hoeven are poring over their finances and adjusting as necessary — and there’s the potential that they might have to give up positions or income they currently hold.
Berg — who was recently named by Politico as possibly the wealthiest newly elected Republican to the U.S. House — has more than $20 million worth of assets to analyze, much of it tied to real estate holdings.
A businessman by trade, Berg was a founding partner of Goldmark, a regional housing and commercial real estate company established in 1981. He now serves as senior vice president of Goldmark Schlossman Commercial Real Estate Services Inc.
Berg said this month he can still retain ownership in the company and his other business ventures, but he’ll have to check on any salary he earns.
House rules prohibit members from earning outside income in excess of about $26,000 a year. That doesn’t include holding or earning interest from investments or assets in property — which is where much of Berg’s wealth lies.
Berg serves as a director or partner with at least a dozen other businesses outside Goldmark — mostly in real estate, according to his disclosure statement to the U.S. House this year.
“I’m working through it to try and streamline it and make sure that there are no perceived conflicts of interest between things that I might be voting on and things that I have a financial interest in,” Berg said.
“You’re not required to liquidate everything, but you just have to make sure that everything’s fully disclosed,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hoeven also has some reshuffling to do before he joins the U.S. Senate.
The son of a Minot, N.D., banker, Hoeven has accumulated at least $12.1 million in wealth and assets, according to his Senate financial disclosure form.
Hoeven also sits on several boards of directors, including four tied to his family’s banking business and a Twin Cities-based medical services company called Northwest Respiratory Services, LLC, according to his financial disclosures.
Hoeven said this month he was still consulting with lawyers on how he should handle his assets so that he’s in compliance with the Senate’s ethics rules.
“I think I would not serve on bank boards or business boards,” Hoeven said. “I think that’s the clearest way to make sure that there’s not a conflict or a perception of a conflict.”
Hoeven and Berg aren’t the only members of Congress who’ve had to make such arrangements.
Several businessmen-turned-lawmakers have had to assess their investments to comply with ethics rules — and many still maintain some ties to their business assets.
For instance, both Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan hold ownership in apartment buildings in Bismarck.
Dorgan’s 50-percent share in his building earned him about $13,600 in 2009, according to his financial statement.
Similarly, Conrad disclosed that he earns at least $20,000 in annual income from his apartment building and from a rental unit within his Washington, D.C., residence.
On the Minnesota side, Democratic Sen. Al Franken serves as president and part-owner in Alan Franken, Inc. — a multimedia professional services company worth at least a half-million dollars.
But, Franken gains no annual income from the investment, according to his disclosure statement.
Kristen Daum is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.