Mitch McConnell’s Net Worth Tripled From 2007 to 2010

How many people do you know whose net worth was greater in 2009 than in 2007 — you know, after the financial sector nosedive created a new economic impact crater.

If you’re like most of us, none or very few. That’s because the average household net worth in the U.S. dropped 23% between 2007 and 2009.

Thus this rise in net worth from $7.8 million in 2007 to $19.9M in 2009 (and $27.2M in 2010) is nothing short of spectacular.* In 2010, McConnell was the 10th wealthiest U.S. Senator, moving from 41st in 2004.

Mitch McConnell Open Secrets

Given that it belongs to a Congressman who has reportedly never held a private sector job, spectacular isn’t the word I’d use to describe it.

I say corrupt.

And I mean corrupt (mostly) in the Larry Lessig way:

“Corruption” not in the sense that representatives are bribed. Rather, “corruption” in the sense that the system induces the beneficiaries of Congress’s acts to raise and give money to Congress to induce it to act.

Lessig is talking about contributions needed to get re-elected.

This corruption — the kind that can see a public servant almost quadruple his net worth in four years in the middle of the Great Recession — is a different sort but it still rests on who you know, not the sweat of your brow. It rests on the things you lobby for and against, how you wield power, in other words.

The bulk of this increase has been credited to McConnell’s second wife, Elaine Chao.

Her father, James, attended one of China’s “finest universities with Jiang Zemin, the future leader of the People’s Republic” and he also became friends with “the immensely powerful Shanghai-born family the Tungs.” After moving to the U.S. as “an assistant in one of the Tungs’ merchant-shipping outfits,” he was able to get papers within three years and send for his family. This at a time when Chinese immigration was limited to 102 people a year.

Chao married McConnell in 1993 and has spent the bulk of her career in the public sector. She was George W. Bush’s Labor Secretary for both terms of his presidency. (She was the only cabinet member to serve eight years.) She — like McConnell — has lobbied for trade agreements that benefit firms that run by her father: those that move goods in trade.

And although McConnell’s net worth trajectory raises eyebrows, his campaign committee has raised $26,449,564 (2007-2012). While raising money for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, McConnell added $72 million (1996), $91 million (1998) and $96 million (2000) to be shared by other Republicans running for the U.S. Senate.

In 2007, McConnell secured earmarks for BAE Systems, which was under investigation by the DOJ for fraud. In 2010, the firm pled guilty and paid a $400 million criminal fine. In the UK, BAE is still under investigation. Yet according to OpenSecrets, McConnell sponsored earmarks for BAE in fiscal 2010 as well.**

From 2005-2010, a PAC run by BAE Systems Inc. gave McConnell $21,000 — “spread between his campaign and his leadership PAC… BAE Systems Inc. is the American subsidiary of BAE Systems, the world’s second largest defense contractor, headquartered in Britain.” Chump change, that. But look what the firm got in return.

In addition, report released earlier this year notes the timing of other contributions and votes:

On the very day debate began on a bill to repeal subsidies to Big Oil, an astonishing $131,500 in campaign contributions passed from the hands of oil donors in Midland, Texas into McConnell’s election war chest. Three days later the bill failed by filibuster.

How many of these votes are also directly – or indirectly – affecting the millions of dollars McConnell has invested in Vanguard and other financial firms?

Given the state of financial reporting today, we’ll never know.

* This is an estimate, mid-range of the possibilities.

** Earmarks are line item budget measures that tell agencies how they must spend money that Congress has allocated, even if the agency had not requested the expenditure.

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