Dole was 7th-richest senator in 2006 survey

Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, is known as one of the poorest members of the Senate.

Of course, poverty is relative, so consider how the Carolina senators stack up in the 100-member chamber.

Only six senators are wealthier than Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., according to the most recent comparison of lawmakers' personal financial disclosure forms by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Dole's 2006 holdings were valued between $18.5 million and $69.2 million, according to the documents, which require reporting in broad ranges as opposed to specific values. Not included on the forms are any homes that politicians own unless they earn income from rent.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., ranked 59th, with a portfolio ranging in value from $554,841 to $1,627,826.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wasn't far behind, ranking 65th, with $338,019 to $1.4 million in assets.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was just ahead of Biden. DeMint ranked 98th, with $16,002 to $65,000 in assets.

Biden, of Delaware, may be as much as $300,000 in debt on the low end, or worth $278,000 on the high end. Because of rules that require both incoming and outgoing senators to report on their finances, there were actually 108 senators who filed in 2006, and Biden took up that last slot.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona ranked 8th in 2006, while Democratic nominee Barack Obama of Illinois ranked 67th.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that also slices and dices campaign contributions and the influence of lobbyists, plans to reveal 2007 rankings in the coming weeks. Dole's report alone is more than 200 pages long this year, so these things take a while.

Dole, Hagan and energy investments

Personal finances are often fodder for campaigns. This year is no exception.

Dole and her opponent, state Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Guilford, have traded barbs over their respective energy holdings.

Hagan's husband, Chip, has at least $90,000 worth of investments in oil and gas wells in Oklahoma, Indiana, West Virginia and Ohio, her disclosure form shows. In addition, he has stock in energy companies.

“Each time you buy gas, her cash register goes ‘ka-ching!'” said a TV ad run by the Dole campaign.

Hagan's campaign tallied that Dole's husband, Bob, had invested at least $682,000 in companies in the oil and natural gas business.

Hagan was quick to point out a story in the Capitol Hill publication Politico that revealed Bob Dole's $1 million investment in an offshore hedge fund that speculates on crude and heating oil, gasoline and natural gas prices.

“She voted to give them $17 billion in tax breaks,” a Hagan radio ad says of Dole and “Big Oil.”

Hagan, by the way, wouldn't be in the wealth cellar with Biden and DeMint if she were elected to the Senate. She had personal assets valued between $425,000 and $1.3 million in 2007, while her husband, a corporate attorney, had between $10.7 million and $43.9 million.

Watt understands one-stop mortgage shopping

Rep. Mel Watt said he can relate to mortgage shoppers who want one-stop shopping.

“I'm kind of in the position right now. I'm refinancing,” the Charlotte Democrat said at a hearing he chaired last week about mortgage transparency. “If I were refinancing in Charlotte where I live, I know all of the providers – the title companies, the lawyers, the lenders, the brokers. I mean, I'd be shopping this thing to death.

“But closing a refinance of a condo here in Washington, I know none of the providers. And so when I was offered the opportunity to just turn that over to somebody, it seemed like a good idea because I wasn't going to go take the time to shop around on this thing.”

Watt's comments came during a discussion of “affiliate” relationships between lenders, builders and others in the financial services industry.

Spratt compliments efforts to shore up economy

Not everyone on Capitol Hill thought Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson were superheroes for their actions to right the economy.

But the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and the treasury secretary have a fan in Rep. John Spratt, the Democrat from York County who chairs the House Budget Committee.

“They're as well-equipped for this gruesome task as anybody,” Spratt said.

“They're trying to shore up this economy from a severe downward spiral. It's been done with lightning speed, and it takes my breath away. We are fortunate to have them where they are. They're not Olympians, they don't know everything they need to do, but …”

Spratt trailed off into a recitation of their qualifications, none too shabby – but definitely not Michael Phelps.

Carolinas roll call on defense spending bill

Graham and DeMint were among only eight senators who voted against the defense authorization bill that passed the Senate on Wednesday. Dole and Burr voted for it.