About 47 percent of Congress, or 250 current members of Congress, are millionaires, according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics of lawmakers' personal financial disclosure forms covering calendar year 2010. The Center's analysis is based on the median values of lawmakers' disclosed assets and liabilities.
That lofty financial status is enjoyed by only about one percent of Americans.
"The vast majority of members of Congress are quite comfortable, financially, while many of their own constituents suffer from economic hardships," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.
"It's no surprise that so many people grumble about lawmakers being out-of-touch," Krumholz continued. "Few Americans enjoy the same financial cushion maintained by most members of Congress – or the same access to market-altering information that could yield personal financial gains."
On the whole, elected officials in the U.S. Senate enjoy cushier bank accounts and portfolios than their counterparts in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2010, the year of the most recently released financial data, the estimated median net worth of a current U.S. senator stood at an average of $2.63 million, according to the Center's research.
Despite the global economic meltdown in 2008 and sluggish recovery, that's up about 11 percent from an estimated median net worth of about $2.38 million in 2009, according to the Center's analysis. And it's up about 16 percent from a median estimated net worth of $2.27 million in 2008.
Party doesn't matter
Fully 37 Senate Democrats and 30 Senate Republicans reported an average net worth in excess of $1 million in 2010, according to the Center's analysis. The same was true of 110 House Republicans and 73 House Democrats.
The median estimated net worth among Senate Republicans was $2.43 million, and the median net worth among members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate was $2.69 million, by the Center's tally.
Meanwhile, in the House, the median estimated net worth of a GOP House member was $834,250 in 2010, according to the Center's research, compared to a median net worth of $635,500 among House Democrats.
The median estimated net worth among House members, overall, stood at $756,765 in 2010. That's up about 17 percent compared to the median net worth of $645,500 among House members in 2008, but down about 1 percent compared to 2009, when House members posted a median estimated net worth of $765,010, according to the Center's analysis.
When members of Congress file these annual reports, they are allowed to list the value of their assets and liabilities in broad ranges. The Center for Responsive Politics determines the minimum and maximum possible values for each asset and liability for every member of Congress and then calculates each lawmaker's average estimated net worth.
Sometimes millions of dollars separate a lawmaker's minimum estimated worth from his or her maximum estimated wealth. That said, members of Congress might be more financially well off than they seem. The annual filings do not include the values of government retirement accounts, personal property – such as cars or artwork – or any non-income-generating property, such as their primary residences.
Moreover, because of the forms' broad ranges for assets and liabilities, it's impossible to know whether some members of Congress are in the black or in the red.
Issa on top
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) ranks as the wealthiest member of the 112th Congress, according to the Center's analysis of 2010 financial disclosures. Issa's minimum estimated net worth in 2010 was $195 million, while his maximum estimated net worth was more than $700 million. That gives Issa an average net worth of $448 million.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) ranks as the wealthiest House Democrat. Polis, who has spent about $7 million of his own money on his campaigns since 2007, has an average estimated net worth of $143 million.
No. 2 is Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas, $380 million), followed by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass., $232 million), Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va., $193 million) and Sen. Herb Kohl, the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team (D-Wis., $174 million).
Hastings at bottom
The net worth of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is below zero. Her maximum net worth is a negative $15,000, while her minimum net worth is a negative $50,000.
A similar predicament afflicts Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Louis Gohmert (R-Texas), Steve Fincher (R-Tenn.) and Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.).
Notably, Hastings, whose minimum estimated net worth is $7.3 million in debt and whose maximum estimated net worth is $2.1 million in debt, ranks as the poorest member of Congress, by the Center's tally.
None of the 43 Congressional Black Caucus legislators appear in the top 100 wealthiest federal lawmakers. The richest, Rep. Al Green of Texas, has an average net worth of approximately $4.5 million – No. 104 on the list.
The average net worth of CBC members is $411,179 – well below the congressional average of $7.4 million.
The most popular company in which members of Congress were invested in 2010 was General Electric, a company that spent more than $39 million on federal lobbying that year and ranked as the No. 3 top spender on lobbying.
Seventy-five different current members of Congress held stock in GE in 2010, according to the Center's research. Collectively, these holdings were worth at least $3.6 million.