More Things You Didn’t Know About American Congress

The US House of Representatives

Real Estate is the Investment of Choice

Members of Congress are highly likely to invest a great deal of their money into stocks and shares. However, by far the largest amount of that money is going into real estate. Perhaps they know something that we don’t.

In terms of investment in stock in listed companies there are definitely some which are more popular than others. General Electric is the most popular choice. There are other familiar names which probably come as no surprise including Apple, Microsoft, Pfizer, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Co, Wells Fargo and Verizon Communications. Exxon Mobile is also the investment of choice for many in Congress.

Members of Congress Do Not Get an Automatic Pay Increase

This one may surprise you, but Congress keeps voting against giving themselves an automatic pay increase. The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 allowed for Congress to receive a pay increase every year. Surprisingly in the last 25 years Congress has approved the increase 13 times, but said no to an increase 11 times. We have to say this one takes some thinking about as not many people would vote against their own pay increase!

Some in Congress argue that the cost of living in Washington is prohibitive and that there should be a fairer system which factors in a housing stipend. Those Senators with an average net worth of $2.8 million probably aren’t quite so interested in arguing too much for this.  For this year’s pay raise, check out this congressional bill.

It Costs a Lot of Money to Get into Congress

A tour of the Capitol Building may still be free to all, but the cost of a seat in Congress is not getting any cheaper.

It is estimated that in 2012 winning a seat in the House cost around $1.6 million. This is largely a rich man’s game (women are still very much the minority in Congress). The costs of campaigning can vary wildly. Strangely, it actually seems to costs you more to lose your seat than to gain it in some cases. Members of Congress who are trying to hold onto their seat spend way more money on average than those trying to gain a seat for the first time.

If you want to win a seat in the Senate you better make sure that you have a whole lot of resources to get you there. The average cost of a campaign was $10.4 million in 2012.

Congress Has Vacations That the Rest of America Can Only Dream About

Congress has a lot of recess time. If you look at the figures for the last 40 years, the average time which Congress spent in session is just 140 days per year. That means that there were 225 days of the year that the doors to Congress were closed.

Some years were better than others. 2011 was not a good time for vacation time in Congress – they met for 170 days leaving just 195 days for recess. However, the best year in recent times for members of Congress to do other thigs was in 2006 when they were required to be in their seats for just 101 days. That is a little over three months of the year.

Of course, we are not suggesting that members of Congress have nothing to do when not in session. We have no doubt that staying in touch with the electorate, campaigning and fund raising are all very time consuming. Perhaps that vacation in The Hamptons is not on the top of their list of things to do. What do you think?



Photo by davidmesaaz