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!