Congress is getting richer: 10 facts on Congress, money and the STOCK Act

1) According to Roll Call the collective net worth of members of Congress has increased by 25% between 2008 and 2010.

2) Members had a collective net worth of $2 billion in 2010, a nearly 25% increase over 2008. Nearly 90 percent of that increase is concentrated in the 50 richest members of Congress.

3) The minimum net worth in the House has jumped to 1.26 billion and in the Senate net worth has increased to 784 million. (This is not accounting for homes and other non-income generating property).

4) Although a few wealthy people skew the averages for the whole of Congress membership, the average member of Congress is exceedingly wealthier than the average US household.

5) According to Opensecrets.org the median estimated worth of a new freshman admitted to the 113th Congress was over 1 million.

6) According to The Washington Post 130 members of Congress OR their families were allowed under ethics rules to trade stocks worth hundreds of millions of dollars in companies lobbying on bills that came before their committees.

7) Almost 1 in every 8 trades intersected with legislation. This is why Congress responded and passed the STOCK Act in 2012. The STOCK Act, which stands for Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, stops lawmakers, their staff and top executive branch officials from trading on inside information obtained from Capitol Hill.

8) The Act FAILED though to address the crucial difference between Congress and others branches of government. While administration officials cannot trade stocks in industries they oversee and can influence, lawmakers can still invest in firms even while they create laws that can affect the company’s bottom line.

9) Last Friday President Obama signed a bill reversing big pieces of law in the STOCK Act. According to Jay Carney, President Obama’s Press Secretary, this was out of fear that having the executive branch staff post their financial disclosures online for transparency could lead to identity theft and substantial national security, personal security, and law enforcement issues.

10) Alan Ziobrowski, a professor of real estate at Georgia State University, has produced studies that show lawmakers in both chambers fare better in their investment portfolios than the average American. Research showed that members of Congress outperformed the market, senators by 10% and representatives by 6%.

Even if there is no proof of insider trading, that is lawmakers using confidential information to make trades that benefit themselves, review shows that lawmakers make trades that raise questions about potential conflicts and highlight the weaker standard that Congress applies to itself. Even if you want to say that insider trading is a victimless crime, that nobody’s getting hurt, lawmakers are allowing themselves to profit from information not provided to the rest of the public. Is this fair? Officials are not elected to benefit themselves, they are elected to serve their constituents. If their well-being or finances are tied to certain companies and banks, will that not affect their legislation? Not only do we have to worry about lobbyists, a revolving door where lawmakers make millions working at corporations after leaving office, we also have to deal with lawmakers trying to make as much as they can while in office.

It should not only piss you off that these lawmakers are passing legislation that gives them an unfair advantage, it should also bother you that while OUR CONGRESS CAN’T PASS SHIT THEY PASSED THIS LEGISLATION WITHIN 3O SECONDS. Amazing! How quickly things get done when Congress members are who benefit. It just goes to show that our elected officials are not worried about their constituents because if they were, if they really felt their urgency, they would do more to help them and quickly instead of staying in constant political gridlock. There is such a need for a discussion on money and its place in politics. We wonder why nothing gets done for typical Americans, and it’s partly because our politicians aren’t typical Americans–a lot of them are rich. It also has to do with corporate personhood and the ability of corporations to fund our politicians’ political races, giving them priority over American citizens ($7 billion was spent on the last presidential race). How do we expect typical Americans, who do care for this country and want to make a difference, to run for office when they require millions, if not billions to do so? And more importantly, how do we expect them to not be compromised? Corporations aren’t giving money away for nothing. We as a nation shouldn’t have to deal with a corrupt, uncooperative and polarized Congress, but until we as a nation do something about it we’re stuck with it. So the reality is that we can either have a democracy or we can have money in politics, it is up to us.

–Marina Espinoza

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