U.S. Election Will Cost $5.3 Billion, Center Predicts
As Economic Storm Brewed, Congressional Wealth Grew 11% Last Year
No matter who wins, it’s tough to advance economic justice, to make geonomics the law of the land. Money is what politics is about -- getting it, spending it, and directing public monies into backers’ pockets. Here are the latest figures culled from two 2008 press releases by a dedicated watchdog group in the US capital of October 16 and 23.
by the Center for Responsive PoliticsMembers of Congress, who are now paid about $169,000 annually, saw their net worths from 2004 to 2007 soar 61 percent.
Lawmakers had a collective net worth of $3.7 billion at the end of 2007, before the stock market plunge. U.S. senators had a median net worth of approximately $1.7 million in 2007, and 62 percent of the Senate's members could be considered millionaires. In the House of Representatives, the median net worth was about $684,000, with 39 percent of members having net worths estimated to be at least $1 million. By contrast, only about 1 percent of all American adults can be considered millionaires. Growth between 2006 and 2007 was still a healthy 13 percent.
Barack Obama leaped from being the 70th richest senator in 2006 to the 31st in 2007. Obama's average net worth jumped from an estimated $800,000 in '06 to $4.7 million last year, fueled largely by royalties from his two bestselling books. John McCain, dropped a couple of notches from 10th to 12th, at about $28.5 million, largely due to Cindy McCain's family fortune. Like many members of Congress, most of Sen. McCain's wealth is derived from his spouse.
The very wealthiest senators -- into nine figures -- are all Democrats, led by both Massachusetts Senators, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, and including a Rockefeller. Democrats also filled the ranks of the poorest Congress people, coming from both Dixie and the Rust Belt.
The lawmakers’ most popular investment was one that they give much money to, the weapons maker GE, with 20 more members than second place Cisco at 68 investors from Congress. Their favorite sector of the economy for investing, by far, with a wild estimate ranging from $300,000,000 to one billion dollars is old reliable -- real estate. Second, at a definite (range-free) $265,000,000, is Hollywood. In third place, at about half the entertainment investment, is electronics. Other industries were nowhere near the top three.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) who left Congress at the end of last year, swiftly demonstrated the value of a former lawmaker to various industries seeking access on Capitol Hill. First Lott joined with former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) to open a bipartisan lobbying firm, and most recently he accepted a position on the board of the North American arm of defense giant EADS. During the first half of this year, the Breaux Lott Leadership Group banked $3.1 million from its client roster, which includes AT&T, the Association of American Railroads and energy company Plains Exploration & Production. By leaving Congress before his term was up, Lott was able to dodge new ethics rules requiring senators to wait two years before lobbying.
Lobbyists thrive on having access to politicians, and there are few better ways to gain that access than by making campaign contributions. Lobbyists give more money to the party in power -- Democrats -- and they overwhelmingly favor incumbents over challengers. All the sectors of the economy that spent the most on lobbying were pretty closely bunched together in the low billions. In second place at $3.1 billion was the medical profession, and we’ve seen little slowdown in the inflation of their fees. In first place at $3.3 billion was FIRE (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate). Winning a $700 bailout means their $3.3B paid off, what, 20,000%?
As the Democrats stand to make substantial gains in both the House and Senate on November 4th, the pharmaceutical industry appears to be following the power. Since the 2006 election cycle, donations from the drug industry have shifted starkly from favoring Republicans to reflecting parity among the parties. In 2006 Democrats received 31 percent of total contributions from the pharmaceutical and health products industry, compared to the Republicans' 67 percent. So far in this election cycle, Democrats and Republicans have received nearly equal shares of pharma money, 49 percent and 51 percent respectively.
As in the presidential race, congressional candidates have raised more than $1 billion in the 2008 election cycle.
The 2008 race shows a clear partisan preference among campaign contributors who’re employed by government. In the past two elections, civil servants and public officials ranging from U.S. attorneys to small-town mayors have split their contributions evenly between the major parties' presidential candidates. This cycle, Obama has collected nearly three times more than McCain. While the Democrat has collected more from employees at the Department of Justice than any other executive branch agency, Department of Defense employees are McCain's biggest supporters among federal agencies.
The 2008 election for president and Congress is the most expensive in history. CRP estimates that more than $5.3 billion will go toward financing the federal contests upcoming on Nov. 4.
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