According to a press release from the Center for Responsive Government, there are 237 millionaires in Congress. The nonpartisan and nonprofit Center is America’s premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy.
Whereas 1% of Americans are millionaries, more than 44% of Congress can claim that distinction. Not exactly the citizen-representatives whom the Founding Fathers had in mind.
Below are excerpts from the press release:
About 1% of all Americans are considered millionaires, while more than 44% of congressional members claim that distinction. And 50 members of Congress boast estimated wealth of at least $10 million.
U.S. senators currently serving have a median reportable worth of $1.79 million for 2008, down from $2.27 million in 2007, CRP’s analysis indicates. Meanwhile, currently serving House members’ median income was $622,254 in 2008, down from $724,258 in 2007.
This ends a notable run of congressional wealth expansion.
In 2007, for example, members of Congress then serving experienced a 13 percent increase in wealth when compared to 2006. Congressional members experienced similar year-over-year increases back to the early part of this decade.
Among Congress’ biggest financial losers: Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), according to CRP’s research. All experienced double-digit percentage declines in their average, estimated wealth between 2007 and 2008.
On the opposite end, however, stand Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who each experienced sharp spikes in their reported wealth.
Many members of Congress reported holding assets in companies that have come before them for financial bailout money, such as Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. Real estate holdings are the most popular investments among congressional members. This is followed by recreational and live entertainment entities – powered almost entirely by Kohl’s ownership of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team — securities and farming.
But because members of Congress are only required to report their wealth and liabilities in broad ranges, it’s impossible to precisely determine how much value their assets are worth, or have gained or lost. CRP determines the minimum and maximum possible asset values for each member of Congress to calculate a member’s average estimated wealth.
Based on this criteria, Democrats occupy the top five spots in terms of average wealth among senators: Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Warner, Kerry, Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). Kohl, in placing first, boasts an average wealth figure of more than $214.5 million. In contrast, Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) recorded average wealth below $0.
In the House, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) placed first, with an average wealth of $251 million – top among all members of Congress. Following Issa are Reps. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). Twenty-three House members recorded average wealth in negative territory, with Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Harry Teague (D-N.M.) scraping the bottom.
This may – or may not – mean that these members are financially destitute. In addition to only requiring congressional members to report their assets in ranges, federal financial disclosures don’t require members of Congress to report certain assets such as personal residences, which may represent significant stores of wealth.
“Federal disclosure requirements don’t make it easy to determine the true extent of federal politicians’ personal holdings,” said Dan Auble, who manages CRP’s database of lawmakers’ personal financial information. “More transparency regarding congressional members’ personal assets helps lawmakers make decisions in the interests of their constituents and discourages them from attempting to benefit from legislative actions.”
CRP advocates electronic submission of personal financial disclosure reports to provide greater transparency and more meaningful access to this valuable public data.
The CRP should do a study of how many of our “representatives” became millionaires after they entered Congress.