Riches to Massive Riches: The Michael McCaul Story

Sick of investment advice from hacks like Warren Buffet and Donald Trump? Ask a congress member. Roll Call published their latest list of the “50 Richest Members of the 112th Congress” last week. Texan House Representative Mike McCaul took first place, reporting a minimum net worth of $305.46 million for 2011. His wealth has increased exponentially over the past few years while the current median household income is the lowest it’s been since the late 1990s, according to recent data from the US Census:

In 2011, real median household income was 8.1 percent lower than in 2007, the year before the most recent recession, and was 8.9 percent lower than the median household income peak that occurred in 1999.

The average Texan made $38,294 in 2011.

One play from the McCaul book involves influencing legislation to turn a profit. The McCaul family holds between $325,000 and $750,000 worth of stock in a parent company of Pratt & Whitney, according to Republic Report. Pratt & Whitney builds F-35 engines. 

McCaul has been sitting on the Joint Strike Fighter Caucus since its inception last year. The caucus has received more than $325,400 in contributions from Pratt and other similar companies who build parts for F-35’s. Add this number to whatever private investments caucus members may hold in these companies. It ought to become clear why they seem to spend most of their energy fighting like the dickens to preserve funding for the project despite the fact that it may cost taxpayers upward of $1.45 trillion, according to Reuters.

With these, along with other smaller holdings in such companies as Fisher Scientific, Walt Disney and TransCanada, McCaul has flirted with what some would label “insider trading.” A report on this issue in The Washington Post said McCaul’s financial disclosures indicated “the highest number of overlapping trades” of any Congress member, “totaling between $5 million and $23 million.” In this context, “overlap” refers to instances in which a Congress member like McCaul holds stock in companies like Pratt that stand to benefit or suffer as a result of decisions he makes as a Representative.

In January, McCaul decided to co-sponsor the STOCK Act, which aims to prevent insider trading by members of Congress. This strange gesture toward atonement failed. Allegations against McCaul regarding his behavior during the investigation of another Congress member ultimately led to his resignation from a House ethics committee in February.

But let’s put the man’s tortured conscience aside for a moment and consider his behavior as a Representative. Demos’ report on the struggling middle class in Texas points out that housing is “more expensive relative to household income than it was decades ago.” McCaul voted against The American Housing Rescue & Foreclosure Prevention Act during the height of the mortgage crisis in 2008.

Tuition, the report continues, has “more than quadrupled in Texas over the past 20 years,” and it became especially unruly since the state deregulated it in 2003. McCaul supported the deregulation, according to UTWatch’s 2004 Higher Education Voter’s Guide. More recently, he voted against $84 million for African and American and Latino colleges in a state where African Americans already make 75% of what their white contemporaries make. That number drops to 60% for Latinos. 

TheMiddleClass.org gave McCaul a rating of 7% in terms of supporting middle-income friendly legislation. He hasn’t made a single empathetic gesture to the middle class in Congress since 2009 in the site's estimation. Maybe that is because he is worth what almost 8,000 average Texans make in one year and could buy and sell them like so many baseball cards if he so chose.

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