Public opinion of Congress has reached all-time lows, according to some polls. And a recent article in the Washington Post isn’t likely to help.
The Post examined financial disclosure forms and public records of all members of the House and Senate. The findings help explain why the public has become so cynical.
More than 70 members of Congress have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that could financially benefit them or their family members. For example, a California Congress member helped secure tax breaks for racehorse owners, according to the Post investigation. Then he turned around and purchased seven horses when the new rules went into effect.
Another instance closer to home involves Representative Mike Kelly, a Republican from Pennsylvania. When Kelly was still a candidate, his financial filings disclosed that he owned shares in two gas companies valued at $2,000 to $30,000. Bigger energy companies purchased the two firms, and it turns out, his wife also had shares in the companies. The couple made between $10 million and $50 million when the companies sold.
And the Post says that days after he was elected in 2010, Kelly voted in favor of a bill to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, which scientists have warned can be released during the process known as “fracking.” And Kelly has been a strong supporter of the Marcellus Shale gas development efforts.
Neither Kelly nor his wife broke any laws. This kind of parlor shell game is perfectly legal; Congress has seen to that. And members of both political parties play the game.
When lawmakers are challenged about possible conflicts of interest with these kinds of deals, their typical defense is something like: we can’t help it if we benefit from policies that our constituents want.
Kelly insists he’s trying to get Americans back to work, according to the Post. He says his support for fracking has nothing to do with his ballooning bank account.
Of course not.