Democratic Senator from Washington State

Maria Cantwell was sworn in for her first term on January 3, 2001. She was born in 1958, the second of five children and raised in a working class Irish neighborhood of Indianapolis. Both her parents were committed to public service. She received a B.A. in public policy from Miami University of Ohio in 1980.

She moved to Mountlake Terrace in Washington after college, where she organized a coalition to build a new library. At age 28 she successfully ran for state office. In 1992 she was elected to the U.S. Congress in the First District north of Seattle. While in the house she helped pass the Family and Medical Leave Act and measure to reduce the deficit. She was a strong advocate for women’s rights and the environment. In 1995 she joined a software start-up which has grown to provide 1,000 jobs in Washington State.

She is a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Committee on the Judiciary, and Committee on Small Business. While on the Judiciary Committee she opposed the appointment of Senator John Ashcroft to be Attorney General of the United States, expressing doubts over his willingness to enforce laws protecting a woman’s right to chose, as well as environment regulations.

Her website and contact info:

Phone: 1-888-648-7328
717 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Maria Cantwell's financial story is an interesting one, and has not been well covered in the press. When she left Congress in 1995, she joined up with RealNetworks as a manager, and earned the kind of stock options that were tossed around in the heady days of the early "New Economy" period. As a result of these and the sharp rise in RealNetworks' stock price (it topped out at about $93 in early 2000), her net worth in January 2000 was estimated at just under $50 million. According to public information (since she was considered an "insider" for stock trading purposes), more than $44 million of this was the result of her share holdings in RealNetworks (symbol: RNWK).

Then, of course, the market began to slip. She sold some 80,000 shares on 2/29/00 at a price of $72,58/share, ostensibly to finance her budding Senate campaign. She sold a further 110,000 shares on 8/17/00 at a price of $43.98 per share. Much of this money seems to have gone into her campaign coffers, since she gave nearly $6 million of personal funds to her own Senate effort. Cantwell also borrowed approximately $3.2 million for the campaign, using her shares in RealNetworks as collateral. Armed with these funds, she handily outspent her challenger, Slade Gorton, and won the tightly contested election by a mere 2,229 votes.

Unfortunately for Cantwell, her stock continued to slide: as of 8/16/01, it stood at a mere $6.77 per share. When her loan came due in March 2000, she was unable to pay; and as of April some $1.4 million remained on the balance. She still holds 280,000 shares of RealNetworks, but today that stake is worth only about $1.9 million. As if that weren't enough, she is under investigation by several campaign finance watchdog groups for failing to disclose certain loans until after the campaign.

I have no opinion about Ms. Cantwell, her politics, or her abilities. But I do remember her being described regularly as an "internet millionaire" during the campaign season, and find it interesting that few mentions have been made about her current financial straits. Has the media developed a conscience and chosen to refrain from basking in a celebrity's misfortunes? Perish the thought!

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