Politics & Government

Valley lawmakers augment income many ways

WASHINGTON -- Another member of the San Joaquin Valley congressional delegation has gotten into the winemaking business.

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia, who was raised on a dairy farm, last year sold the Tulare County farmland he co-owned with his brother. With the proceeds, newly filed public records show, Nunes invested between $50,000 and $100,000 in a Napa Valley winery.

"It's a risky business," Nunes said Thursday, "but it's a neat thing for me to do."

Nunes revealed his limited partnership in the Rutherford-based Alpha Omega Winery as part of his personal financial disclosure statement. The statements are required annually of all House and Senate members.

Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, who founded Radanovich Winery, is no longer invested in the winery, according to disclosure statements.

While he was in the winemaking business, Radanovich often played a hands-on role. Nunes does not, though he noted that winemaking runs in his family; his grandfather and other relatives were amateur vintners.

Alpha Omega Winery opened last summer and is advertising its first bottles for between $24 and $60.

"It's a limited partnership," Nunes said, "so I don't make any of the decisions."

The annual disclosure statements provide a wide array of details about financial affairs. Radanovich, for example, reported receiving a $650 shotgun last year as a gift from his staff.

But it's hard to clearly rank the wealth of members, because the statements cover broad categories. Rank-and-file members of Congress were paid $165,200 last year.

Clearly, though, none of the Valley's House members is in the same financial league as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Her assets reported Thursday include a Napa vineyard worth between $5 million and $25 million, owned with her husband, Paul.

The lawmakers augment their work income in different ways. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, for instance, reported earning $1,462 from the sale of her political suspense novel, "A Time to Run," whose hero is a feisty liberal senator from California.

The statements show that Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, bought and sold a variety of largely high-tech stocks throughout last year. The sales included between $1,000 and $15,000 worth of stock in Evergreen Solar Inc., which he disposed of in February.

Cardoza sold that particular stock so that there wouldn't be a potential conflict when he introduced solar energy legislation in March.

The disclosure statements typically identify a dollar range rather than a specific amount for assets. Cardoza, for instance, reported selling between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of General Electric Co. stock in January 2006, and buying between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of NASDAQ stock that same month.

"I had sold some property, and I was trying to maximize my investments," Cardoza said, "and then I also started fixing up my property, including putting solar panels in."

In some cases, lawmakers provide precise details. For instance, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, reported earning $127,302 from his Fresno County farm. Costa is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, but according to Agriculture Department databases, his farm did not receive federal subsidies last year.