Sestak calls Toomey a millionaire, but he is, too


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WASHINGTON -- Among the most common epithets Joe Sestak and his allies like to use for Republican Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race is "millionaire."

Mr. Toomey's wealth undergirds the Democrat's argument that his policies serve to help the rich, while Mr. Sestak is crusading for "working families."

It's true that Mr. Toomey has healthy bank accounts, but Mr. Sestak falls into the millionaire category as well, an analysis of the candidates' financial disclosures shows.

Congress requires candidates and officeholders to give only a range of values for their assets, so the disclosures provide only a ballpark figure. Mr. Sestak's 2009 disclosure shows his retirement savings, bank accounts and stock and mutual fund holdings to be worth between $969,000 and $2,722,000.

Mr. Sestak earns a $174,000 congressional salary. His wife, Susan, works at the Alexandria, Va.-based Institute for Defense Analyses, but she doesn't have to disclose her income.

The Sestaks split their time between Alexandria, in a home appraised this year at $800,000, and a home in Delaware County they bought for $334,000 in 2007.

Mr. Toomey reported assets -- including a small personal airplane that he pilots to campaign stops -- of between $2,023,000 and $4,953,000. His family lives in a house in Zionsville, Lehigh County, with an appraised value of $331,000.

Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said the millionaire attack is hypocritical and even brought Mr. Sestak's Toyota Prius into the fray.

"Joe Sestak has become a typical Washington politician," Ms. Soloveichik wrote in an e-mail. "He attacks someone for being a millionaire and he's a millionaire himself; he says it's important to buy American products and buys a Japanese car. The last thing we need is another Washington politician in the Senate."

For the Sestak campaign, the source of the income is more important than the amount. Mr. Toomey earned the bulk of his wealth as a trader on Wall Street and, briefly, in Hong Kong. After six years in Congress, he served as president of the Club for Growth, an anti-tax group backed by the financial industry.

Mr. Sestak spent 31 years in the Navy, rising briefly to the rank of three-star vice admiral, and could have parlayed his rank into a consulting job far more lucrative than toiling in the Capitol.

"[Mr. Sestak] was someone who's always been a public servant in the Navy and in the Congress," said Sestak spokesman Jonathon Dworkin. "No one's ever said that he was scraping to get by or anything like that, but he's dedicated his life to serving his country."

The bulk of Mr. Sestak's investments are in mutual funds and savings accounts, but he also owns shares in an array of stocks, including Amazon.com, Exxon, Toyota, Wal-Mart and Bank of America.

Mr. Toomey owns a wide range of mutual funds, though his biggest investments are a stake in a bank, a private equity firm and a real estate partnership in the Lehigh Valley. Before running for Congress in 1998, he co-owned a chain of bar-restaurants in the Allentown area with his brothers.

It's the businessman background that he stresses in a television ad now airing statewide, shot from the inside of Rookie's restaurant and sports bar in Allentown.

"We created hundreds of jobs," Mr. Toomey boasts.

Mr. Sestak and the Democratic Party, meanwhile, focus on Mr. Toomey's financial resume and don't hesitate to mention his wealth. Mr. Dworkin stressed Mr. Toomey's record in Congress and then at Club for Growth of supporting deregulation for business and lower taxes for the wealthy.

"We've laid the argument out that Toomey has always stood up for Wall Street," he said.

The efficacy of the attacks remains to be seen. Internal polls conducted by the Sestak campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee show the race at a virtual tie. But in public polling, Mr. Toomey has held a steady lead, including a Rasmussen Poll released Thursday showing him ahead, 49-39 percent.


Daniel Malloy: dmalloy@post-gazette.com or 1-202-445-9980. Follow him on Twitter at PG_in_DC.


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