By Dan Keating, Scott Higham, Kimberly Kindy and David S. Fallis
(c) 2012, The Washington Post.
WASHINGTON — If you could peer deeply into how the 535 members of Congress handle their money, what would you find?
You would see a diversity of investment strategies and results, from those who put their money into riskier, high-growth funds to those who own safe municipal bonds. The legislators range from the super-rich to the deep-in-debt, from inherited wealth to married wealth to no wealth at all. They are entrepreneurs and farmers, oilmen and ranchers, lawyers and real estate develop ers.
You would find that, contrary to many popular perceptions, lawmakers don't get rich by merely being in Congress. Rich people who go to Congress, though, keep getting richer while they're there.
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.
Those findings emerge from an ongoing examination of congressional finances by The Washington Post, which analyzed thousands of financial disclosure forms and public records for all members of Congress.
Most members of Congress weathered the financial crisis better than the average American, who saw median household net worth drop 39 percent from 2007 to 2010. The median estimated wealth of members of the current Congress rose 5 percent during the same period, according to their reported assets and liabilities. The wealthiest one-third of Congress gained 14 percent.
Because lawmakers are allowed to report their holdings and debts in broad ranges, it is impossible for the public to determine their precise net worth. They also are not required to reveal the value of their homes, the salaries of their spouses or money kept in non-interest-bearing bank accounts and their congressional retirement plan.