●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. The Post will report on several of those cases Monday.
Because of the imprecise financial disclosure system, estimations of wealth can be off by millions. For example, reports for Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) between 2004 and 2010 show that her wealth most likely increased by as little as $1 million or as much as $20 million, as framed by the changes to the lowest and highest possible totals of her reported assets. The Post analysis, which takes the midpoint of the ranges, estimated the increase at $11 million.
That figure is inaccurate, said her spokesman, Matt Dennis.
“The Loweys’ net worth did not increase by anywhere near $11m from 2004-2010 — the metric you’re using presents a hugely distorted picture,” Dennis said in an e-mail.
He declined to provide more accurate values for the assets of Lowey, a 12-term congresswoman, who is married to a partner in a White Plains, N.Y., law firm.
“They’re entitled to a certain level of privacy with their finances,” Dennis said in an interview. “That’s why the system is the way it is. They want a certain standard of disclosure without sacrificing their personal privacy.”
Rebound after recession
The analysis shows that lawmakers who were well-off before the financial crisis of 2008 saw portions of their portfolios level off during the darkest days. But most of these lawmakers managed to maintain their financial footing and emerge far wealthier than they had been earlier in the decade.
Some of the richest members of Congress watched their portfolios soar between 2004 and 2010. Of the 72 lawmakers whose estimated wealth doubled during that time, it appears that 11 increased their portfolios by at least $10 million, based on the midpoint of their reported ranges.
Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Tex.) posted an estimated $22 million gain. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saw an estimated $60 million increase in her reported wealth as the value of her husband’s commercial real estate holdings in San Francisco climbed dramatically during the first decade of the century.
“This is really driven by real estate that he has held, some of it inherited, for a number of years,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. “San Francisco is one of the places where the market has skyrocketed in terms of price per square foot and has been fairly insulated in terms of the 2008 financial crisis.”