Congress seems to be getting worse with deadlines, especially when it comes to reporting Members’ personal finances.
More than one-fifth of House lawmakers — 92 of the 439 sitting Members and Delegates — failed to meet the May 15 deadline for filing their annual financial disclosure forms, according to the Clerk of the House, which released the documents Wednesday. Twenty-five of those late filers were freshmen.
“It was really just because of timing,” said a spokesman for Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), a freshman worth a minimum of about $8 million, according to 2010 election disclosure filings. “Simply because he’s a freshman and he wanted to get started legislatively.”
Twenty Senators also missed the deadline, according to the Senate Office of Public Records, which publishes that chamber’s reports. Among the five freshman Senators requesting an extension was the class’s wealthiest, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is worth at least $64 million, according to reports filed last year. Three Senators filed Wednesday, and their disclosures were scheduled to be released today, along with several tardy House Members.
Members are routinely granted extensions on their annual disclosures, but both chambers are becoming increasingly tardy. Last year, only 17 Senators and 85 House lawmakers needed extra time. In 2007 — according to documents provided by the Center for Responsive Politics — 70 Members were granted extensions, and in 2006, 54 Members were granted extensions.
Every spring, Members of Congress are required to file the annual reports disclosing assets, including investment accounts or rental properties, and liabilities such as personal loans and other debts from the previous calendar year.
Under House rules — which are mandated by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 — Members and senior staff must file financial disclosures by May 15, but the House Ethics Committee “may grant reasonable extensions of time for the filing.”
Members seeking an extension must make a request in writing and must state a reason for requesting the extension, but the rules do not appear to allow the committee to reject a request for an extension. No filers may receive an extension of more than 90 days.
Among those House Members who did not file in time for Wednesday’s document dump: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who announced earlier this week that she will run for president; former Ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and committee members Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.); Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.); and Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), who are among the richest Members of Congress.
The form of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who has yet to return to Congress after being seriously wounded in a shooting five months ago, was filed on time.
Most House lawmakers requesting more time were granted an extra month to file, but 32 were given the maximum extension, until Aug. 12, one week after lawmakers adjourn for the August recess. Eight Members requested extensions but then managed to squeak their forms in before the public release Wednesday.
On top of the delays, Roll Call reported that in recent years, about a quarter of lawmakers have filed their disclosure forms incorrectly and have to file amendments.
In the Senate, nearly all the Members who didn’t file also missed the deadline last year, including: Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
One office suggests that part of the problem is that Senators are just busy people. A spokesman for Conrad told Roll Call that “given the marathon budget negotiations and record flooding in North Dakota, Sen. Conrad requested and received an extension.”