By Crash Barry
In 2011, Angus King, like many Mainers, strung together a series of jobs in order to make a living. Unlike us, King earned $23,500 per month. And that’s just the cash from his various consulting gigs, including $2,600 worth of “commissions” he collected every month from tending the trust fund of a dead college buddy’s son.
Those earnings don’t include the dividends from his multi-million-dollar portfolio of stocks and bonds, or King’s holdings in mutual and hedge funds that invest in tobacco, oil, beer, and numerous Chinese corporations.
Thanks to the intentional bureaucratic murkiness of Senate disclosure forms, there’s no way of telling how King’s personal investment strategies have paid off. Or how much cash he has stashed. Or what percentage of his income he pays in taxes. Like Mitt Romney, King refuses to release his IRS filings.
When King’s financial paperwork was made public by the Senate at the end of June, a handful of Maine news outlets ran perfunctory stories that estimated his wealth to be somewhere between $4.8 million and $22.5 million. That wobbly range seemed meaningless, so I started examining the 25-page disclosure in hope of finding a real number. I got nothing. But after several hours spent eyeballing the documents, one thing became clear: The rich certainly make their money differently than the rest of us.
I decided to send the disclosure report to a respected Portland stockbroker who agreed to help demystify the available details of King’s annual earnings and wealth. (The full report is available for download at crashbarry.com. Because the reporting period was 16 months long, I’ve pro-rated the figures to reflect an annual sum.)
The broker — whom I’ll call “James,” because he asked that his name not be disclosed — said King’s stocks, bonds, IRAs and other money-makers were of the traditional sort favored by “retail investors.” That’s Wall Street-speak for individuals with millions in the market, usually managed with help from a brokerage or the VIP department of a large bank.
However, James was surprised by the diversity of Maine companies paying for King’s time and services. Although widely known as a Bowdoin College lecturer and wind-power speculator, King’s largest source of annual income resulted from his role as a bank director. In 2011, King received more than 50 grand from The Bank of Maine. He also made over $60,000 from working with the law and lobbying firm Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer and Nelson, and from advising the Medicaid health care management company Goold Health Systems and Leaders LLC, a Maine-based mergers-and-aquistions firm primarily involved in the energy sector. Hancock Lumber, Lee Auto Mall and the engineering firm Woodard & Curran collectively paid King over $40,000 to serve on their respective corporate boards.
Given that Bank of Maine forked over so much money to King, James wondered what King’s role was in the restructuring and recapitalization of the Gardiner bank. We may never know. King never seems to mention his bank job, and he resigned his directorship in April. But he’s still hanging with bankers. His campaign pays $3,725 every month in rent to Bank of Maine for his headquarters in Brunswick, located in a retail space on Maine Street adjacent to a Bank of Maine branch.
James was also interested in the $30,000 King annually earned from a New York City trust fund established in the name of Roger Kline for the benefit of Matthew Kline. Figuring that a trustee commonly receives one-tenth of one percent of a fund’s value, that meant the Kline trust fund could be worth tens of millions of dollars.
“Who is Roger Kline?” the stockbroker asked. “And what does Angus have to do to earn that money?”
After some deep Googling, the answer emerged. Roger Kline was a college chum of King’s. According to the Dartmouth College Newsletter of the Class of 1966, Kline was class president and “Gus” King was known as the “erstwhile Big Man on Campus.”
Apparently the two fellas remained close. When Kline died unexpectedly in 2009 during a trip to Europe, King was named the executor of Kline’s estate. Since Kline was a senior partner at McKinsey & Company (a global management consulting firm considered second only to Mitt Romney’s Bain & Company), it’s likely his financial affairs were complicated. Especially since, at the time of his death, Kline was going through a divorce. That led to a minor legal skirmish in which King acted as a plaintiff against his old pal’s widow, the defendant. The case, concerning divorce proceedings and legal fees, was dismissed in favor of the estate. (Messages left with the Kline family and the King campaign were not returned.)
King’s earnings aren’t limited to consultancies, directorships and trust funds. He’s also a popular corporate speaker. He made about $23,000 in honorariums during the reporting period covered in the disclosure forms. He was paid $4,000 in speaking fees by Bath Iron Works and pocketed $1,500 from the Walmart distribution center in Lewiston, both entities that benefited from big tax breaks during King’s gubernatorial career. He also made a series of speeches to a “Human Resources” convention that netted him $10,500, courtesy of an outfit called Northern New England Law Publishers Inc.
James thought King’s choices in stocks and bonds were routine, but I found the investment decisions made by King and his wife very interesting. Their stock portfolio, for instance, consists of stakes in 25 companies, including Exxon-Mobil, GE, Apple, IBM, 3M, Target, and several lesser-known biotech, pharmaceutical and energy corporations. They own smaller amounts of Marriott, Disney, UPS, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly Clark, Nike, and L-3 Communications, a defense and homeland-security contractor involved in the world of drones and surveillance.
James also noted that King has invested in more than a dozen Maine municipal bonds. “Those bonds are very good for wealthy Mainers,” James said. In addition to the pride one feels by investing locally, the profits are tax-free on both the state and federal level.
I was curious about King’s strategy of putting money into over a dozen different IRAs, but James said it’s not uncommon for a certain class of investor to spread their retirement monies among many funds. Most interesting to me was King’s investment of between $50,000 and $100,000 with W.P. Stewart, a global investment firm formerly based in Bermuda, which managed an IRA mutual fund for King with stakes in MasterCard, Urban Outfitters, Google, and YUM Brands, the company that operates and licenses KFCs, Pizza Huts and Taco Bells.
As I noted in a cover story for The Bollard last May, King served on the board of W.P. Stewart from 2004 to 2009, a tumultuous period during which the company was de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange and had to sell its corporate jet to help make ends meet. The firm was subsequently reorganized, and King and a couple other directors were shown the door. Apparently there are no hard feelings, since King still invests with the firm. And King has no problem accepting campaign contributions from his former colleagues there, including the company’s namesake, William Stewart, who donated $5,000 to King’s Senate campaign.
King is also heavily invested in a bunch of other mutual and hedge funds. Due to the slack Senate disclosure requirements, the values of these investments are vague. Thanks to the Internet, though, it’s wicked easy to learn where King’s funds put their money.
A little research revealed some big surprises. King allegedly dislikes cigarettes, yet several of his funds invested in tobacco companies, including industry giants Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Japanese Tobacco International. Other King-favored funds focused on beverage companies, namely Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle (owner of Poland Springs), Heineken and Anheuser-Busch.
Despite King’s “green energy” mantra, he invests in hedge funds that own big chunks of Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, Exxon-Mobil, and several Chinese oil drilling companies.
Why should voters care where King puts his money? After all, his campaign has said that if King becomes Maine’s next senator, his investments will end up in a blind trust, where, the story goes, the investor has no control over or knowledge of the financial goings-on. But, as Mitt Romney once explained, a blind trust ain’t totally blind.
“The ‘blind trust’ is an age-old ruse,” Romney famously proclaimed in 1994. “You can always tell the blind trust what it can and cannot do. You give a blind trust rules.”