WASHINGTON — The two men running for U.S. Senate are into big money — they have millions and they borrow millions.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, each make $174,000 as members of Congress. But an examination of the most recent personal financial disclosure forms each filed to the U.S. Congress showed that both men have assets and liabilities that far exceed those of the average Texan.
O’Rourke and his wife listed assets that could range from $3.5 million to a little over $16 million, most of it coming from rental and commercial real estate, a stake in the candidate’s software and technology company and his wife’s trust fund. Their liabilities — mostly from their real estate holdings — total between $1.3 million and $5.7 million.
Cruz and his wife, meanwhile, list assets ranging between $2 million and $5 million from stocks, mutual funds, his law firm retirement plan and a big loan they made to Cruz’s 2012 Senate campaign that can’t be fully repaid under federal campaign finance laws. Cruz’s liabilities could range from $1 million to $5.3 million under the broad ranges included in candidate disclosure forms.
Because federal candidates don’t have to report the exact amounts of their income, financial assets and liabilities, it’s impossible to calculate their net worth from the disclosure forms. The figures are from financial disclosures that were filed in 2018 but encompass their 2017 finances.
But Roll Call’s annual report on the “Wealth of Congress” put O’Rourke at 97th among the 530 members for 2016, while Cruz came in at 332nd.
Cruz earned degrees at Princeton and Harvard and has spent much of his career in public service — as a Bush administration staffer, Texas solicitor general and one term as a U.S. Senator.
His wife, Heidi Cruz, is a managing director at Goldman Sachs, the powerhouse investment bank. The couple’s disclosure report offers little insight into her salary, merely listing it as greater than $1,000, but it's reasonable to assume that she is the breadwinner of the family.
Nearly all of the couple’s assets are stocks and mutual funds. Several are worth six figures, including shares in a BlackRock fund and a retirement plan from Cruz’s tenure as an attorney at the Morgan Lewis law firm. The Cruzes made at least $33,000 in dividends and interest in 2017.
But his largest individual listed asset is part of a $1.2 million loan that he made to himself for his 2012 Senate campaign — at the time Cruz said he and his wife had poured their life savings into his long-shot Senate bid.
Congressional candidates frequently make loans to their own campaigns, but they don't always recover that money. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in August that because of federal limits on how candidates can use their campaign accounts to repay loans to themselves, it is unlikely Cruz will ever be able to recoup the remaining balance of that loan, which stands at more than a half-million dollars.
At the same time, Cruz owes Goldman Sachs between $100,001 and $250,000 — which is likely the balance of a loan of up to $500,000 that he received from his wife's company during his 2012 campaign for the Senate. That loan became a campaign issue during Cruz's unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid when the New York Times reported that he had failed to report it. Cruz called it a minor reporting oversight, while his critics at the time argued that the loan belied Cruz's image as a grassroots outsider.
The couple's largest liability is a mortgage from Bank of America worth between $1 million and $5 million.
O'Rourkes' fortune rests on real estate
After spending his early adulthood in a band, O’Rourke hung up his bass and founded Stanton Street Technology Group, a software and technology company. His wife, Amy Hoover Sanders O’Rourke, sold a stake in the company worth between $100,000 and $1 million in 2017.
He was also a partner in Imperial Arms LLC, a real estate company that owns an El Paso rental property valued at more than $1 million. The O’Rourkes sold the property in early 2017.
Additionally, O’Rourke valued his partial ownership of Peppertree Square Ltd., a shopping center in El Paso — which was a gift from his mother in 2012 — at between $2 million and $10 million.
According to the documents, Sanders O’Rourke had an income of about $65,000 in 2017. She made $53,000 as a consultant for the Council Regional Economic Expansion and Education Development, an El Paso-based educational policy group with ties to Woody Hunt, a prominent local philanthropist and political donor. She earned about $12,000 from Stanton Street Technology Group before she sold her stake in late March 2017.
The O’Rourkes earned around at least $340,000 in capital gains, rent, interest, dividends and stock sales in 2017 and also listed among their assets a trust fund in Sanders O’Rourke’s name worth between $1 million and $5 million. Her father, Bill Sanders, earned his fortune in real estate.
The couple listed more than $1.3 million in liabilities, mostly in the form of mortgages.
The largest liability is at least $1,050,000 in mortgages for the Imperial Arms and Peppertree rental properties. The O’Rourkes also have a home mortgage worth at least $250,000. And finally, they reported a business loan for Stanton Street that was worth at least $15,000.
O'Rourke has also seen his finances questioned during the race: Cruz's camp has highlighted O'Rourke's purchase of Twitter stock on the day the social media company went public in 2013. The U.S. House Ethics Committee had warned members to avoid investing in initial public offerings of companies, particularly Twitter, because "IPO participation ... is normally not available to the general public." In an interview with the El Paso Times, O’Rourke said he did not see the memo before his broker purchased the stock, then sold it two days later.
Legistorm, a nonpartisan website that tracks Congressional disclosures, flagged the violation to O’Rourke, who brought the matter to the U.S. House Ethics Committee and wrote a check to the federal treasury in the amount of his earnings from all IPOs he participated in that year.
"I apologize to the House of Representatives and to the people I represent for not exercising due diligence,” he wrote on Facebook at the time. “I will be much more thorough in the future concerning financial transactions and do my best to ensure that I am in full compliance with all rules covering members of Congress.”