Capitol Assets: A close-up look at congressional wealth

October 8, 2012

A Washington Post analysis of the personal finances of all 535 members of Congress reveals how they position their portfolios and win and lose money on Wall Street.

At least 73 members of Congress have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation in recent years that could benefit businesses or industries in which either they or their family members are involved or invested, according to a Washington Post analysis. The findings, part of our Capitol Assets series, emerge from an examination by The Post of financial disclosure forms and public records for all 535 members of the House and Senate.

The first report in the project’s latest installment, published on Sunday, found that 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.

Monday’s story dives deeper into the finances of lawmakers and finds that dozens took actions that benefit themselves or their families — a practice that is both legal and permitted by Congressional ethics rules.

Among the examples:

Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.) owns between $1 million and $5 million in her family’s livestock business in Wyoming, where the state animal is the bison and cattle ranches dot the landscape. She is one of 15 lawmakers co-sponsoring a bill that would double, from 10 years to 20 years, the duration of federal grazing permits for livestock that feeds on publicly held lands. Her husband, records show, holds a permit through 2017 to graze cattle on 675 acres of federal land.

– After Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) took office in 2007, he asked the House Ethics Committee whether he could vote on legislation that might affect his personal holdings, including an investment worth as much as $5 million in his brother’s home health-care business, Louisville-based Almost Family. The panel said he could. He also has helped co-sponsor a handful of bills of interest to the industry, including the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act. That pending bill would expand the number of health professionals who can refer patients to home health care. And, in May, Yarmuth co-sponsored a legislative amendment to block across-the-board Medicare cuts to providers, including home health aides. The effort failed.

Click here to read Sunday’s story and here to read Monday’s report. Then make sure to peruse our interactive database that warehouses congressional assets and investments and includes a profile for every member of Congress.

For example, the page for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) finds that he had an estimated wealth of $4.1 million in 2010, a 51 percent increase from 2004, thanks primarily to investments in stocks and bonds. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had an estimated wealth of $6.8 million in 2010, an 81 percent jump from 2004 due to investments primarily in real estate.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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Ed O'Keefe · October 8, 2012