Red stock, blue stock…

November 7, 2006

images.jpegTaking a short break from our usual trawl through the filings to remind people to vote today and to talk about an interesting story I did for Slate on how Republicans and Democratic lawmakers buy different types of stock. As I noted in the article, the Center for Responsive Politics recently completed crunching the personal financial disclosure forms filed by members of Congress — the first time someone has tackled this task because the forms are notoriously difficult to read. And there’s also the part where the filing requirements lead to wide gaps that make the disclosure virtually irrelevant. For example, Rep. Jane Harman, a Democrat from El Segundo, Calif. is worth anywhere from $168 million to $289 million. That’s the kind of disclosure that makes SEC rules on executive pay seem transparent. One could only imagine how happy the folks at GE would be — the stock was the most heavily owned by lawmakers in 2005 — if they could list Jeff Immelt’s pay that way.

As for the actual stocks that lawmakers buy, Republicans favor Exxon Mobil (XOM), Altria (MO) and  Coca-Cola (KO), which seems to lend itself to an addiction joke, while Democrats favor tech stocks such as Texas Instruments (TXN) and Vodafone (VOD). Some stocks, like Time Warner (TWX) and Washington Mutual (WM) were pretty equally split.

What will really be interesting to see going forward is whether lawmakers start paying closer attention to their holdings now that this information is more readily available. Here where I live in northern Westchester, my Republican Congresswoman actually attacked her challenger over his investment in Fidelity Magellan, a commercial you’ve probably heard if you live in the New York area and listen to commercial radio. So clearly, there will be more attention paid to this going forward. After all, as Georgetown University associate Finance professor Jim Angel noted, it doesn’t look good from a PR perspective, at least, to represent Michigan in Congress and not own any stock in Ford Motors (F).

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