With Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently testifying before Congress, it was interesting to read The Dallas Morning News report about Texas Rep. Michael McCaul.

According to the report, “McCaul owns at least $1 million in Facebook stock, the most of anyone in Congress. McCaul, one of the richest members of the House or Senate, also reported about $30,000 in capital gains from Facebook holdings in 2016.”

The DMN reported that “Roll Call found that 28 lawmakers in both parties owned shares of Facebook in 2016, according to financial reports filed in August. The next filing deadline is May 15.”

The T-shirt and hoodie aficionado Zuckerberg, of course, was called by Congress to discuss a massive data breach through Cambridge Analytica, a firm that used data taken from Facebook users without their knowledge. Facebook has admitted that up to 87 million people had their data improperly shared by the firm.

To the best of my knowledge, I was not one of the 87 million.

But let’s forget about Facebook. Instead, let’s take a look at these members of Congress and their respective financial disclosures. I can almost guarantee you that very few of these opulent politicians will volunteer this information during their campaign rhetoric at Lincoln or Truman dinners.

For the typical member of Congress, taxpayers pay each one $174,000 per year. Some, like House talker Paul Ryan, make another $49,500 on top of the $174,000. Not exactly chump change in either case. However, college presidents, judges and public school superintendents are in a similar income bracket – and without the Washington, D.C. travel and related living expenses.

That’s what makes the congressional financial disclosure reports interesting.

Financial disclosure reports include information about the source, type, amount or value of the incomes of members (by the way, stop referring to yourselves as "Members," there’s no royalty in America) of Congress, officers, certain employees and candidates.

Financial disclosure reports for House members are available from 2008-16 at http://clerk.house.gov/public_disc/financial-search.aspx. In addition, campaign cash reports are available at https://www.opensecrets.org.

One of the more interesting financial searches is this: Select your favorite – or least favorite – member, then compare the member’s first disclosure report with his or her most recent disclosure. Unless someone went through a costly divorce or some other litigation, it’s a safe bet that the most recent financial disclosure will more than double in pages from the initial year in office.

Why is that?

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• In an unrelated report, maybe J.T. Stepleton was on to something, writing for FollowTheMoney.org (https://www.followthemoney.org): “Another election, another record for the books. In 2015 and 2016, $404.1 million was spent independently on state elections in 30 (of 50) states tracked by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, surpassing the record set in 2013 and 2014 by $32 million. The bulk of the spending continues to be devoted to a handful of races financed by a handful of spenders. Just 15 percent of the roughly 2,000 spenders accounted for 91 percent of the money spent independently during the election cycle.”

One thing remains obvious: Politicians are still very good at lining their own pockets. We see it on many levels.

In Ohio, a small-village community organizer can grow up and become House talker with the right connections. He can also resign while still in office, perhaps because of some of those connections.

In Washington, D.C., many pols would be amused that anyone would resign from such a powerful political office. “Fight to the finish,” they might say.

Deny, deny deny. And then deny some more. Go on Facebook (oops, it’s under investigation) or Twitter and make allegations against any and all who might call your integrity into question. Lawyer up. If your lawyer is indicted, blame him, and lawyer up again.

A local and honorable Republican was in my office this week. We talked about some of this nonsense. He asked me: “Why can’t public officials – Republicans or Democrats – sit down and talk about an issue, and then do the right thing for the people they represent?”

My only answer is this: When politicians become bought and paid for, they must ask their masters what is the “right thing.”

Follow the money. And take a look at http://clerk.house.gov/public_disc/financial-search.aspx.


Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.