Congressional Members Strike it Rich
The three “M”s: mining, manufacturing and money.
Those used to be the three tried and tested ways to strike it rich in America and elsewhere, with a lot of work–and a little luck.
Now, add “E” and “C” to those letters: Earmarks and Congress.
A study released yesterday said that entering Congress is one of the surest ways to increase personal wealth. Readers probably already guessed that, but the study puts facts to the claim.
Personal wealth of Congressman and Senators has skyrocketed in recent years–no surprise–with lawmakers far more richer than most Americans as of 2006.
Is it any wonder that there’s such a battle to eliminate earmarks?
Earmark some project back home–it’s only federal money, after all–and voila! Almost if by some force of nature, some of it finds its way back to the politician, his family or his campaign.
The median net worth of senators was estimated at $1.7 million and House of Representatives members at $675,000, said the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington watchdog group that monitors the influence of money on government.
The center released a report saying that until the recent economic slowdown, lawmakers “enjoyed an extraordinary run in their personal investments and other finances.”
The report said, “Members of Congress, who are now paid about $169,000 annually, saw their net worths soar 84 percent from 2004 to 2006, on average.”
It’s no surprise that the “party of the poor”, the Democrats, contain some of the wealthiest members.
Having lots of money shields politicians from the consequences of the laws they pass.
Joe Six-pack finds it a lot harder to hire a battery of tax attorneys and lawyers to handle the latest tax, but not wealthy Congressmen–or women.
Congress’ wealthiest member was estimated to be California Democratic Rep. Jane Harman. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is married to Sidney Harman, founder and executive chairman of audio products maker Harman International Industries.
The center said its findings were based on lawmakers’ financial disclosure reports filed most recently, covering 2006, and from reports for the preceding two years. Data for 2007 will be made public this summer, it said.
The center estimated Rep. Harman was worth $409 million in 2006, but it said her net worth could be as high as $597 million and as low as $222 million because lawmakers are only required to disclose assets and liabilities in ranges.
“Determining an official’s precise net worth is impossible using the financial disclosure forms that Congress currently employs,” the center said.
“Like a lot of Americans, as the economy did well, Congress did well — but lawmakers did especially well,” said Sheila Krumholz, the center’s executive director, in a statement.
“Now that the nation’s economic road is turning rougher, members of Congress have a far more comfortable cushion than most Americans have to ride it out,” she said.
No surprise, either that congressional investment flow to industries that seem to need constant legislation from those same congressional investors.
“They have millions of dollars invested in politically influential industries that they also regulate,” such as real estate, banking, pharmaceuticals and energy, the center said.
When someone on Wall Street benefits from advance knowledge or inside knowledge, it’s a crime. Just ask the many victims of Eliot Spitzer.
And no, we’re not talking about the prostitute he had unprotected sex with. We’re talking about the many businessmen strong-armed by Spitzer into copping pleas when he was on his prosecuting way to the New York governorship.
In many cases, “insider knowledge” was a Spitzer charge.
If only Spitzer’s targets had been congressmen–then they all could have all had a laugh and a drink over the latest legislative coup.
It’s only a matter of time before this study is confirmed by events that touch daily life. The one way readers can tell that winning a congressional seat is the way to a quick buck:
The late-night infomercial.