SourceWatch:Using congressional personal financial disclosures
From OpenCongress Wiki
Editor's note: This page contains information on how to interpret and use the personal financial disclosure forms filed by members of Congress and top-paid congressional staffers.
Members of Congress and high-paid staffers must disclose their personal finances
Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 and House and Senate rules, members of Congress and high paid congressional staffers are required to file forms that disclose the basics of their personal finances. The forms use broad dollar ranges for many assets and incomes, making it difficult to pin down their exact finances.
For more, see the Congresspedia articles on:
- Transparency in the U.S. Congress: Personal Financial Disclosure (Details on what must be disclosed and proposed changes to the regulations.)
- House Rule XXVI - Financial disclosure (House rules on personal financial disclosures.)
- Senate Rule XXXIV-XXXVIII - Finances (Senate rules on personal financial disclosures.)
Finding the forms
Personal financial disclosure forms are collected and scanned-in by the Center for Responsive Politics on their OpenSecrets.org website. They also provide analysis and estimates of more specific numbers than exist on the forms themselves.
The forms are only available in paper from Congress, and can be found at the Secretary of the Senate's office and the Legislative Resource Center (in the basement of the Congressional dome) for the House. The forms are also linked to from each member of Congress profile on Congresspedia.
Using and interpreting personal financial disclosures
The Center for Responsive Politics has posted the methodology they use for interpreting and analyzing the disclosure forms.
The Sunlight Foundation has also posted step-by-step instructions on how to use the Center for Responsive Politics' website to do your own muckraking research on whether members of Congress have conflicts of interest between their personal finances and their actions as public officials. They used these techniques in their ongoing "Family Business" series of investigative blog posts on members of Congress whose family members receive income related to the members' official actions.