Bredesen could be nation’s richest U.S. senator if elected

Democrat Phil Bredesen would become one of the wealthiest members in Congress if the former Tennessee governor is elected to the U.S. Senate, according to financial disclosures filed Friday and compared to Roll Call’s most recent report on the wealth of current members of the U.S. House and Senate.

From the Times Free Press:

Bredesen’s disclosures… show the businessman had assets and income of between $92.2 million to $378 million … the bulk of that was in investments and other assets, which totaled between $88.9 million and $358 million. He reported income of between $3.3 million and $20.1 million.

He reported his liabilities at less than $10,000. The report covers the period from January 2017 through February of 2018.  It’s the former governor’s first disclosure since announcing in December that he is running for the seat held by retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is running in the GOP primary along with two less well-known Republicans. Her 2016 disclosure, filed with the House, shows she could have a negative net worth.

Blackburn reported between $168,000 and $520,000 in assets as well as $4,600 from the former state senator’s legislative pension. She and her husband, Chuck Blackburn, had debts ranging from $400,000 and $850,000, all from mortgages. The report doesn’t disclose Chuck Blackburn’s income.

…As governor, Bredesen, who was already a multi-millionaire, routinely released the first top pages of his income tax returns. He told reporters he doesn’t intend to in this race.

“I actually think this is much more comprehensive than the income tax returns,” he said of the Senate disclosure. “I’m doing what the law requires.”

Among other things, they show that Bredesen, who donated his annual salary to charitable groups while governor, is receiving an annual state pension of $110,908. He explained he decided to collect the pension because he had to pay taxes on his salary.

Bredesen owns stock and remains chairman of Silicon Ranch Corp., a solar energy provider that was started by two former top aides with his backing. Bredesen in 2017 held between $25,000,001 and $50 million in the non-publicly traded company’s stock.

Note: The Roll Call listing of congressional members wealth is HERE.  Using minimum assets ($92.2 million for Bredesen) as the standard, it appears the Tennessee Democratic candidate would be just ahead of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) who reported $90.2 million and thus become the wealthiest senator if elected and things otherwise remained unchanged. Six U.S. House members are listed higher than either Warner or Bredesen.

Diane Black, currently running for governor, comes in 14th in the overall Roll Call listing and higher than any other Tennessean in Congress,  followed by Corker at 25th. Blackburn – at 473 – is the lowest ranking member of the Tennessee delegation.

Further from The Tennessean:

Despite his wealth, Bredesen pushed back against any suggestion that he would be trying to buy the U.S. Senate seat.

“I think the public is vastly smarter than that. Over my years in public life I have on occasion funded my own campaigns and on occasion raised money. The difference between the two is I have always lost the ones that I funded myself.”

Bredesen said he currently does not plan on contributing to his campaign but did not discount the possibility in the future.

“For cash flow purposes I’m perfectly willing to lend money to the campaign,” he said.

As he said when he entered the race, Bredesen estimated it could cost as much as $50 million to win the election, including $17 million to $20 million in contributions and an additional $30 million for independent expenditures.

“It’s an absurd number,” he said. “But that’s the state of it today. And I’m in it to win.”

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