NPR logo In Gold They Trust: Some Lawmakers Hold Precious Metal

In Gold They Trust: Some Lawmakers Hold Precious Metal

Seth Wenig/AP
Gold bars.
Seth Wenig/AP

Ready to buy gold yet?

As Washington edges the government to the brink of a credit default, the price of gold has never been higher.

On Capitol Hill, many lawmaker-investors have seen it as a good investment for years. A survey of their personal financial disclosure reports from 2009 and 2010 shows dozens of lawmakers investing in gold, gold derivatives and gold mining companies, even if it rarely amounts to a major share of their portfolios.

In 2010, two lawmakers said they owned actual gold ingots, bullion or coins: Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Randy Neugebauer (R-TX). Cohen valued his gold at $15,000 to $50,000. Neugebauer estimated $50,000 to $100,000. The law doesn't require members to disclose precise amounts of their personal finances.

Gold's champion on Capitol Hill is Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a long-time advocate of returning to the gold standard. He reported owning shares in Barrick Gold Corp., the Toronto-based gold mining and production company; Anglogold Ashanti of Johannesburg, South Africa; Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp.; Golden Star Resources Ltd. mining in Ghana; the Canadian-based Kinross — 22 companies in all, some of them mining silver as well as gold. The range of Paul's investments: $1 million to $2.4 million.

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But even Paul isn't overcommitted. His other investments are worth as much as $17 million. His passion for gold doesn't seem to be hereditary either. His son, newly elected Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), reported no holdings involving gold or any other precious minerals in 2010.

Another attentive investor in gold is freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), who unseated longtime Democrat John Spratt last fall. Last year he reported 13 different investments in gold and the gold industry, totaling between $348,000 and $740,000. But again, they amounted to just a slice of an extensive portfolio.

Gold draws about twice as many Republicans as Democrats. Still, Capitol Hill's biggest investor is Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz control several trust funds. Last year, those funds collectively owned roughly $800,000 to $1.5 million in Barrick Gold.