Nearly 30 members of the congressional committees overseeing oil and gas companies held personal assets in the industry totaling $9 million to $14.5 million late last year. That included at least $400,000 in the three companies at the heart of the Gulf of Mexico oil-drilling disaster, according to a Washington Post analysis of financial disclosure forms released Wednesday.
Among the members who owned the most oil industry stocks were Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who had nearly $100,000 invested in BP, and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who held as much as $650,000 in ConocoPhillips shares.
Wednesday was financial disclosure day on Capitol Hill, the one time of the year when government watchdogs and the media can glimpse the personal assets of Congress members. Lawmakers must show the value of their assets as of the previous Dec. 31, as well as any gifts they received and financial transactions they made. Federal laws do not require them to disclose exact amounts ; they must show only where their assets fall within a broad range. Critics, including some members of Congress, have pushed for lawmakers to reveal their finances more regularly and in greater detail, to prevent conflicts of interest between their holdings and their legislative portfolios.
According to the disclosure forms, last year saw an increase in lawmakers investing in oil and gas firms. In 2008, members of the five committees held investments worth at least $8.1 million in companies they oversaw ; by the end of 2009, that figure had grown by more than 12 percent.
Holdings in the companies involved in the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico also grew last year, from a minimum of $98,000 to a minimum of almost $400,000. At the top end of the estimates, lawmakers on those panels may have held just shy of $1 million in shares of BP ; Transocean, which owned the oil rig ; and Anadarko Petroleum, a lease partner. The three companies are now under the microscope of those same lawmakers.