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Disclosures Cause Headaches

The devil really is in the details, at least when it comes to Congressional financial disclosure reports.

Even before the House and Senate released lawmakers’ annual financial disclosures Friday, some Members had already filed amendments to the reports, which cover the 2008 calendar year.

Other Members said Friday they intended to file amendments to their reports — which detail each lawmaker’s assets, liabilities, transactions and other information — after being contacted by Roll Call about a variety of errors.

Rep. Anh “Joseph— Cao’s (R-La.) office said the freshman lawmaker will file an amendment to address several problems, including an entry in the liabilities section in which a student loan creditor is listed only as “unknown.—

“We are tracking down the name of the student loan company,— said Cao spokeswoman Princella Smith. The loan, listed as a $50,000 to $100,000 liability, belongs to Cao’s spouse.

In addition, Cao’s office said it will submit a new version of the “assets and unearned’ income— form, which was not completed in the original filing.

Only two of the four required queries were completed, those describing each asset as well as its year-end value, but not those items that indicate how much or what kind of income an asset earned.

Smith said all of the Louisiana lawmaker’s investments suffered losses last year, so there is no income to report — including two transactions for sales of China Netcom and China Mobile, each valued at $1,001 to $15,000 — but acknowledged that should have been disclosed on the form.

A spokesman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) said his office would also file an amendment Friday to correct an error identical to one made in the Maryland lawmaker’s 2007 calendar year filing.

The House ethics committee, which reviews Members’ forms, requires financial disclosure reports to include any capital gains from stock sales on the income form, formally known as “Schedule III.— Transactions — sales, purchases or exchanges of stocks, bonds, property, etc. — are listed on “Schedule IV— of the report.

“Practically any security or real property that you purchased, sold or exchanged during the year will have to be reported on both Schedule III and Schedule IV,— according to instructions for the financial disclosures.

Although a stock that is sold in its entirety must be listed on the income form as having no value since the Member no longer owns it, any dividends earned prior to the sale and any gains from the sale must still be reported on the income form.

Although Van Hollen reported the August 2008 sale of “Equity Income Fund, AT&T— for between $1,001 and $15,000 on his transactions form, he did not list any corresponding capital gains or dividends on his income form.

The Maryland lawmaker made an identical mistake on his previous report, later adding capital gains from three stock sales.

“It was a minor error and the Congressman will be filing an amendment immediately,— said Van Hollen aide Doug Thornell.

Similarly, a spokesman for Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.) said the senior Democrat will file an amendment after making a comparable error.

According to Tanner’s financial disclosure, his wife sold the “Portis Family Farm— in Carroll County, Tenn., in mid-October for between $15,001 and $50,000.

The property does not appear on Tanner’s income form, however, and it is unclear whether the sale produced any profit.

Tanner spokesman Randy Ford characterized the discrepancy as “just a simple mistake.—

Among those lawmakers who have already submitted amendments are Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.).

Levin, who submitted his form May 15, subsequently provided additional information on May 21 at the request of the Senate Ethics Committee about travel provided to his wife, Barbara Levin.

Smith re-filed his disclosure May 21 after his initial report failed to include a liability valued between $50,001 and $100,000 from Valley Bank and Trust in Gering, Neb., for his “mini-storage/real estate investment.—

Paul Singer contributed to this report.

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