“No young man should go into politics if he wants to get rich.” -President Harry Truman
My how the times have changed! Nearly everyone who enter Washington, DC politics comes out the richer. In fact, 60 percent of average members of Congress have grown their net worths at a rate faster than the American public. A recent report by investigative journalist and author Sheryl Attkisson, reveals that while there are some that are “self-made” success stories, others receive a measly $174,000 annual salary and achieve wealth via controversial means.
Alex Baumgart is a researcher at the watchdog Center for Responsive Politics. He was interviewed by Attkisson for Full Measure.
According to Full Measure:
We asked him to crunch the latest financials for 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators. The richest member overall and for the past decade is car alarm mogul Congressman Darrell Issa whose net worth is estimated at more than $323-million dollars. Next is Democrat Jared Polis, a tech guru, at 308 million. The richest Senator is Democrat Mark Warner. He made a killing as a venture capitalist. And rounding out the Top Ten are: John Delaney, Dave Trott, Trey Hollingsworth, Don Beyer, Tom Rooney, Dianne Feinstein, and Chris Collins.
Some were rich coming in. Many have gotten a lot richer while in public office.
During the interview, Baumgart said that not only did members of Congress lose less money during the recession than average Americans, but that 60 percent of average members of Congress have grown their net worths at a rate faster than the American public.
“For the years that we’ve been keeping track of the data from 2004 to 2016, the median net worth of Congress has grown from $619,000 to one point 2 million,” Baumgart said.
He then compared that to average Americans.
“Average Americans have seen their median net worth stay about the same, sitting at about $90,000,” said Baumgart.
“Among the current members of Congress who have gained the most wealth since they were elected: Polis has seen a $132 million dollars increase since 2007. That’s attributed to a tech company he founded that’s rebounded since the recession. Issa’s investments have netted him a $119 million dollar increase since 2004. And Republican Tom Rooney has gone from owing money in 2013 to $107 million dollars after inheriting family trusts and ownership stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Delaney has gained $80 million dollars since 2011 due to business dealings and investments.”
Baumgart attributes some of the members of Congress’ wealth to “honest work, luck and sometimes, as it turns out, temptation.”
I’m gathering the last one is more probably in many cases.
“Members of Congress are routinely privy to nonpublic information,” said Baumgart. “They are bombarded on a daily basis by lobbyists and industry insiders talking to them, upcoming legislation that might benefit them in certain ways.”
“In 2008, Congressional leaders got a secret briefing from the Treasury Department about the impending bank collapse,” he added. “Some of them left the meeting and almost immediately made stock trades in their own best interests.”
And lest you are one of those people who think the guy wearing your team’s jersey doesn’t do it, it’s across the political spectrum.
“Both sides of the aisle traded stocks, effectively dumping their stocks, preparing for a recession,” Baumgart said.
In other words, members of Congress profited of the recession and profited off the knowledge that banks were going to have major issues.
Congress passed a law in 2012 preventing members from trading stock based on nonpublic information they come across. But the law has proven hard to enforce and doesn’t apply to their families.
Attkisson interviewed Republican Tom Davis and Democrat Jim Moran for the segment on the temptations they faced.
Davis said, “Congress passed a law in 2012 preventing members from trading stock based on nonpublic information they come across. But the law has proven hard to enforce and doesn’t apply to their families.”
Usually, that would result in 2 to 3 percent of whatever the deal worked out to be.
Moran added, “Where you would run into situations more often than not, people who are used to dealing internationally and in a lot of countries, bribes are kind of a way of doing business. And they expected things under the table and you just had to make it clear that that’s not the way we do it in the United States.”
Both men did not get rich while in office, and both men represented districts with a lot of Federal contractors.
Moran went on to mention Democrat William Jefferson, who was seen taking a bribe in 2005 in an undercover FBI video. Investigators found $90,000 hidden among the Boca burgers in his freezer from foreign interests in Africa. Talk about cold, hard cash!
Full Measure also mentioned the following:
There was California Republican Duke Cunningham who accepted millions in bribes.
And Democrat Jim Traficant also convicted of taking bribes. More recently there’s the case of Republican Chris Collins. His net worth skyrocketed by $20 million to $86 million from 2012 to 2016. In the last two years he bought at least four million shares of a biotech company where he’d served on the Board. And he brought other members of Congress and staff on board as investors.
Chris Collins had been overheard saying that he was making a lot of people millionaires, you know, with this stock.
In August, Collins, his son and his son’s future father-in-law were indicted on charges of insider trading related to that biotech firm. They’ve plead not guilty.
Davis lost money to go represent his people and Moran didn’t even own a home or car when he left office.
Both insist that most representatives go to actually represent the people of their district. I question that based on party-line voting that takes place quite often and the fact that we have previously reported that in 2014, more than half of Congress were millionaires.
Commentator Bradlee Dean provided some quotes from some of America’s representatives over the years that indicate the elements of corruption in their midst.
- Vice President Joe Biden said “You have to go where the money is. Now where the money is, there’s almost always implicitly some string attached. … It’s awful hard to take a whole lot of money from a group you know has a particular position then you conclude they’re wrong [and]vote no.”
- “Today’s whole political game, run by an absurdist’s nightmare of moneyed elites, is ridiculous – a game in which corporations are people and money is magically empowered to speak; candidates trek to the corporate suites and secret retreats of the rich, shamelessly selling their political souls.” – Jim Hightower, former Democratic agricultural commissioner of Texas.
- “People tell me all the time that our politics in Washington are broken and that multimillionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling all the shots … it’s hard not to agree.” — Russ Feingold, three-term Democratic senator from Wisconsin, in 2015 announcing he’s running for the Senate again.
- “Lobbyists and career politicians today make up what I call the Washington Cartel. … [They] on a daily basis are conspiring against the American people. … Career politicians’ ears and wallets are open to the highest bidder.” — Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
- “I can legally accept gifts from lobbyists unlimited in number and in value … As you might guess, what results is a corruption of the institution of Missouri government, a corruption driven by big money in politics.” — Missouri State Sen. Rob Schaaf
- “When you start to connect the actual access to money, and the access involves law enforcement officials, you have clearly crossed a line. What is going on is shocking, terrible.” – James E. Tierney, former attorney general of Maine.
- “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.” — Mark Hanna, William McKinley’s 1896 presidential campaign manager and later senator from Ohio, in 1895.
- “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.” — 1912 platform of the Progressive Party, founded by former president Theodore Roosevelt.
- “I had a nice talk with Jack Morgan [i.e., banker J.P. Morgan, Jr.] the other day and he seemed more worried about [Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Rexford] Tugwell’s speech than about anything else, especially when Tugwell said, ‘From now on property rights and financial rights will be subordinated to human rights.’ … The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson … The country is going through a repetition of Jackson’s fight with the Bank of the United States — only on a far bigger and broader basis.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt in a 1933 letter to Edward M. House.
Mr. Baumgart concluded by saying, “The American public expects their member to go to Washington to do one thing and that is to represent them. When they’re doing side deals on biotech companies or making investments on a daily basis, moonlighting as a day trader, that is effectively a betrayal of an expectation.”
The problem, according to Baumgart is that “Congress makes its own rules. They decide what they are and aren’t allowed to do.”
Article posted with permission from The Washington Standard
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