In other words, most Congress members are well insulated from the economic results of their votes — except for the part where they use their votes to fatten their own bank accounts. While their financial status may appear to be irrelevant, it’s not. They’re so insulated from anyone who isn’t wealthy — or a lobbyist – that many of them have no idea at all what the rest of us are dealing with:
The wealthiest one-third of lawmakers were largely immune from the Great Recession, taking the fewest financial hits and watching their investments quickly recover and rise to new heights. But more than 20 percent of the members of the current Congress — 121 lawmakers — appeared to be worse off in 2010 than they had been six years earlier, and 24 saw their reported wealth slide into negative territory.
Welcome to our world, tiny group of Congress members!
Most members weathered the financial crisis better than the average American, who saw median household net worth drop 39 percent from 2007 to 2010. The median estimated wealth of members of the current Congress rose 5 percent during the same period, according to their reported assets and liabilities. The wealthiest one-third of Congress gained 14 percent.
I’m sure all that perfectly legal insider information comes in handy.
Because lawmakers are allowed to report their holdings and debts in broad ranges, it is impossible for the public to determine their precise net worth. They also are not required to reveal the value of their homes, the salaries of their spouses or money kept in non-interest-bearing bank accounts and their congressional retirement plan.
For its analysis, The Post used the midpoint of the range of each reported holding and tracked the figures over time to determine whether the relative wealth of lawmakers had increased or declined between 2004 and 2010. Previous studies of congressional wealth have looked at Congress as a whole, rather than tracking the financial trend for each individual lawmaker. The Post created an in-depth financial portrait of each member of Congress.
Among the findings:
●The estimated wealth of Republicans was 44 percent higher than Democrats in 2004, but that disparity has virtually disappeared.
●The number of millionaires in Congress dropped after the Great Recession; the 253 who have served during the current session are the smallest group since 2004. The numbers are likely to be underestimated because lawmakers are not required to list their homes among their assets.
●Between 2004 and 2010, 72 lawmakers appeared to have doubled their estimated wealth.
●At least 150 lawmakers reported receiving more income from outside jobs and investments than from their congressional salaries of $174,000 for rank-and-file members.
●Representatives in 2010 had a median estimated wealth of $746,000; senators had $2.6 million.
●Since 2004, lawmakers reported more than 3,500 outside jobs paying their spouses more than $1,000 a year. The lawmakers are not required to report how much the spouses are paid or what they did for the money.
●Lawmakers’ wealth is held in a variety of ways: 127 primarily in real estate, 117 in institutional funds, 75 in their spouses’ names, 51 in essentially cash, 36 in specific stocks and bonds, 32 in high-turnover trading, 30 in business ownership and 20 in agriculture. More than 40 had reported assets of $25,000 or less.
The Post also found that some congressional financial interests intersected with public actions taken by legislators: 73 lawmakers sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that could have benefitted businesses or industries in which either they or their families were involved or invested.