Hoyer, currently Democratic whip, had holdings estimated at $600,000 in 2004, not including a home in St. Mary’s County on the banks of the Patuxent River. As the markets tumbled, Hoyer’s holdings went along for the ride. Between 2007 and 2008, he lost about $249,000 in his mutual funds, joining legions of investors who watched their savings wither away as the housing and financial markets teetered.
Hoyer, the longest serving representative in Maryland history, regained some of his financial footing in 2009, with his estimated wealth bouncing back by nearly $200,000. But the next year, it dropped by $441,000 — 89 percent — apparently because of market fluctuations.
A spokeswoman for Hoyer said that his portfolio took a hit during the recession.
“Like a number of people, Mr. Hoyer’s assets experienced the effects of the financial crisis and saw a steep decline,” spokeswoman Katie Grant said.
Hoyer had plenty of company in Congress.
The estimated wealth of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) dropped from $2 million in 2004 to $1 million in 2010. Nearly half of those losses were tied to holdings in OneUnited Bank, where Waters’s husband served on the board.
Waters was the subject of a two-year House Ethics Committee investigation relating to bailout money OneUnited received under the Troubled Assets Relief Program. The bank received $12 million from TARP but is still struggling. In 2010, her husband’s stock and deposits at the bank had dropped from a range of $500,000 to $1 million to between $101,000 and $265,000.
The committee cleared her of any wrongdoing last month.
Waters declined to discuss her family’s finances.
The estimated holdings of Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) dropped from $3 million in 2004 to $848,000 in 2010. Much of the loss was due to the declining value of the music catalogues she inherited from her late husband, onetime congressman and singer-songwriter Sonny Bono. In the 1960s, Bono wrote a string of hit records that included “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On,” recording them with his pop-star partner and then-wife, Cher.
In 2004, the catalogues were worth $765,000 to $1.8 million and generated at least $385,000 in royalties, records show. By 2010, their value had fallen to between $250,000 and $500,000, and royalties fell to at least $106,000.
From bad to worse
The economic meltdown was particularly tough on members of Congress who were already struggling with their personal finances.
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-Tex.) is the only member of Congress known to have filed for personal bankruptcy after the financial crisis. In 2007, his family’s longtime food processing plant in Mercedes fell on hard times. As the economy shrank, the plant was unable to secure credit. “It took a turn for the worse during the financial crisis,” he said in an interview.
Hinojosa had not been active in the business operations for many years, but he had guaranteed a company loan. In 2010, his family closed the business and he was held liable for millions of dollars in losses. His estimated wealth fell dramatically between 2004 and 2010, the year he filed for bankruptcy, citing debts that range between $1.4 million and $5.9 million, the largest owed to Wells Fargo.
For years, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) has been one of the most financially distressed members of Congress. He reported debts of between $2 million and $7 million in 2010. The debt is due to legal fees he incurred in the 1980s when he was a federal judge and accused of accepting bribes. A jury acquitted Hastings, but Congress impeached him.
“I paid some of them along the way,” Hastings said of the legal fees in a recent interview. “I wish I could just hit the lottery so I could pay them all.”
He said the lawyers would give him affidavits forgiving the debt if he requested it, but “what the accountants say to me is that then I would have a tax consequence.”
“Because of the liabilities, I wind up looking as if I am the poorest person” in Congress, he said.
Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.) had estimated family wealth of $184,000 in 2004. His mutual funds lost money during the recession. The biggest apparent drop in assets he reported came during 2009, from $335,000 to $9,000 in debt. By 2010, he reported holdings that were an estimated $159,000 in debt.
Bishop reported liabilities that included mortgages ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 and a debt in the same range to Greenberg Traurig, a high-powered law firm that had been representing him in an ethics case. Bishop was accused of sending federal funds to a Georgia youth program that employed his stepdaughter and her husband.
While the Office of Congressional Ethics eventually recommended that the allegations not be pursued, Bishop still owed Greenberg Traurig between $100,000 and $250,000, according to his most recent disclosure form.
Bishop declined to comment.