NEW BRITAIN, CT (AP) - Richard Blumenthal isn’t flashy. Typically dressed in a plain dark suit, he switched his gas-guzzling state vehicle to an austere Honda Civic hybrid when fuel prices jumped. A fixture at potluck suppers, he’s built a political career over 20 years of taking on the causes of everyday citizens in Connecticut.
While the front-runner Democrat has accused his Republican Senate opponent, Linda McMahon, of attempting to use her millions to buy the seat - a promised $50 million - he appears uneasy when asked about his own wealth, even though he has loaned his campaign $2.25 million as of Oct. 13.
Blumenthal’s family is actually worth tens of millions of dollars. Though his office is in Hartford, his home - like McMahon’s - is in well-heeled Greenwich. And his wife’s family is part-owner of the Empire State Building.
A financial disclosure report filed with the Senate Office of Public Records shows the bulk of Blumenthal’s family wealth comes from Cynthia Blumenthal’s assets, which are separate from her husband’s and were valued between $55.3 million and $107 million. Blumenthal’s assets are listed as between $599,000 and $1.3 million.
The couple also hold some assets jointly, in addition to assets of their four children.
Cynthia Blumenthal’s father, Peter L. Malkin, is know for being one of the original partners in the Empire State Building Associates LLC, which has a 114-year master lease on the Manhattan skyscraper.
Besides the New York icon, the family’s Malkin Properties and its affiliates own and manage more than 14 million square feet of office, retail, residential and warehouse/distribution property in 15 states, according the group’s website. The properties include 11 million square feet in greater New York.
“I thought he was a working man like the rest of us,” said Connie Itagliata, 79, of New Britain, a small working-class city near Hartford, who met Blumenthal at a senior center.
She said she had no idea he or his wife were wealthy but insists it doesn’t matter.
“No,” she said. “As attorney general, I thought he was great. So I figured if he’s working that hard as attorney general, he’ll be just as great as a senator.”
Blumenthal’s state and federal financial filings show that his wife and children receive income from the numerous Malkin real estate holdings and Malkin family investments and trusts. It also lists Blumenthal’s salary of $130,000 as attorney general. The couple’s 5,698-square-foot home in Greenwich, with an assessed value of $2.45 million in 2009, is listed on the state report as being held by the Abigail and John Trust.
The federal report shows Blumenthal has an interest in Blumenthal Oil & Gas LLC, which he inherited from his late father, Martin, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany at age 17 in 1935, barely speaking any English.
Blumenthal says it was his father who went on to build a successful commodities trading firm and his mother, a Nebraska farm girl, who taught him the value of helping and fighting for people.
“Together, their deeply shared belief was that we have an obligation to give back to this country that has given us so much. And that’s what I’ve tried to do with my life, is to give back, to work hard,” he told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I have regarded the measure of my life as not how much money I make, but how many people I help.”
McMahon has publicly questioned why Blumenthal hasn’t, like her, spent more of his own money on the race, given his family’s wealth, and has criticized him for taking money from political action committees.
“I absolutely decided from the beginning that I was going to invest my money, money that I’ve earned, to fund this campaign, because I felt it was important not to take special interest or PAC money and not owe any favors to anyone when I got to Washington,” McMahon told a business group earlier this week.
Blumenthal counters that he is not beholden to those who contribute to his campaign and has had no problems, as attorney general, going after wealthy special interests.
“I do what I think is right and let the chips fall where they may,” he said. “I fight tenaciously and relentlessly for people when they need help and for causes that make a difference in people’s lives, and that’s what I’ll do if I’m elected U.S. senator.”
McMahon has also raised questions about Blumenthal’s family’s investments. While Blumenthal has criticized McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, for allowing much of the company’s merchandise to be made overseas, McMahon has accused him of being hypocritical, claiming he holds at least $7.8 million in foreign assets, including firms based in China and India.
Blumenthal has shot back by saying WWE has vastly outspent that amount in overseas manufacturing, work he argues could have been done in the U.S. The campaign said most, if not all, of the $7.8 million is comprised of assets that are part of trusts owned by Cynthia Blumenthal.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)