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Report: While American Families Lost a Ton of Wealth in the Crash, Members of Congress Did Just Fine

The Washington Post reveals how lawmakers personally benefit from legislation they pass.

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As I reported last December, some of the richest members of Congress represent districts where their constituents are seriously struggling. Darrell Issa, the richest member of Congress, represents a California district where 14 percent of the population live below the poverty line. Issa took some hits during the financial crisis, but rebounded—somewhat amazingly:

Issa appeared to lose about $90 million in 2008, but his portfolio regained an estimated $197 million within two years of the financial meltdown. The rises were fueled by his commercial real estate ventures in San Diego and successful investments in mutual funds, bonds and other securities.

Eric Lichtblau, writing in the New York Times last summer, noted, “In Mr. Issa’s case, it is sometimes difficult to separate the business of Congress from the business of Darrell Issa.”

The real problem is that, while most Americans struggle, members of the body that purports to represent them remain largely separated from the problems of the general population. While millions of Americans face foreclosure, search for work, or labor in low-wage, zero-benefit jobs, a member of Congress's $174,000-a-year salary (plus excellent benefits) is out of reach enough; let alone a financial portfolio capable of dropping $90 million and then regaining more than twice that. It's easy for Sessions and others to argue that their personal interests dovetail with those of their state, but what happens when we're increasingly represented by a political class financially insulated from the consequences of so many of their actions—and able to make laws that make sure that stays the case? 

Sarah Jaffe is a staff writer at In These Times and the co-host of Dissent magazine's "Belabored" podcast. Her writings on labor, social movements, gender, media and student debt have been published in The Atlantic, The Nation, The American Prospect, AlterNet and many other publications, and she is a regular commentator for radio and television. You can follow her on Twitter: @sarahljaffe.