Corwin’s millions put her far ahead of State Legislature colleagues in wealth - The Buffalo News
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Corwin’s millions put her far ahead of State Legislature colleagues in wealth

ALBANY – Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin may wield no true power in Albany, but she is tops in one category in the State Legislature: wealthiest member of either house.

The Clarence Republican’s household net worth, with a range between $40.1 million and $74.6 million, puts her far, far ahead of her 212 other colleagues, according to an analysis of state records released Tuesday by the New York Public Interest Research Group, Common Cause and the New York World.

While many female legislators still struggle to achieve positions of true power in Albany, three of the Top 5 wealthiest lawmakers are women, the report shows.

The study also finds that lawmakers earn considerably more than the average household income in New York. Western New York lawmakers, as a group, ranked second in average household income – their numbers skewed by Corwin’s 2012 income of from $1.8 million to $2 million when the investment income of her and her husband are added to her state salary.

Corwin’s report with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics showed she and her husband with investments in dozens of stocks, bonds and other holdings, including a real estate partnership called Corwin Holdings. Her husband, Philip M. Corwin, is listed as an investor in everything from a New York City restaurant to a New Zealand drug company.

Corwin’s father, Wilbur D. Lewis, helped found the Talking Phone Book in the 1960s. The family is no longer involved with the company, which they sold to Hearst Corp. At its peak, the Town of Tonawanda company had 700 employees in 10 states. Corwin worked on Wall Street and returned home to help run the company as vice president; she then became a full-time mother of three children before being elected to the Assembly in 2008.

She is president of the Philip M. and Jane Lewis Corwin Foundation, which funds education, medical and religious charities for children. The foundation’s most recent federal tax filing, in 2011, showed donations that year of $90,000.

Corwin, 49, is minority leader pro tempore of the Assembly, leading some of the floor debate on behalf of Republicans.

The income and household net worth of legislators, which was never made public before this year, is reported to the state ethics agency on a dollar range. Corwin’s household income of $1.8 to $2 million in 2012 placed her second behind Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Westchester County Democrat who made up to $2.6 million last year. Paulin was second in overall household net worth to Corwin; Paulin, aided by real estate and investment income, has an overall net worth of between $18.7 million and $34.7 million.

Corwin was not available for an interview, but in a written statement, she said she applauded the study by the three government watchdog groups.

“I believe that holding New York State lawmakers accountable for personal interests, while serving the public, is extremely important and will create a more transparent and open environment that combats corruption and conflicts of interest,” she said.

“I am very proud of my family and fortunate to have worked with members of the Talking Book family that worked so hard to make our business successful,’’ she added.

Corwin’s household income compares with the $3 million to $5 million by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Manhattan Democrat who has run the Assembly for a generation.

Silver, who is a counsel to a Manhattan law firm, reported a 2012 income range of $764,000 to $1.1 million. Senate Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos, who has a side income with a Long Island law firm, reported a household income of between $359,000 and $528,000.

Only one other Western New York lawmaker made it into the Top 20 highest incomes. Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer, an Erie County Republican, reported an income range between $357,000 and $495,000, according to the study released Tuesday.

Ranzenhofer also placed 16th in total household net worth, with a range of $1.7 million to $3.1 million.

The study also found the average lawmaker had a median income between $137,000 and $172,000. The state median household income is $57,000.

At a maximum level of $289,000, Senate Republicans, many of whom practice law on the side, had the highest 2012 household income of the five legislative conferences in the two houses. Overall, Republicans in the Legislature reported net household assets twice as high on average as Democratic lawmakers.

The study’s authors cautioned that a lawmaker’s primary residence is not required to be calculated by the state in determining a household net worth.


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