Rich man, poor man: Fed legislators are worth 10X more than voters

March 5, 2018

The median net worth of an adult American is $44,900 , based on findings of a Business Insider study released in June 2017. That’s less than one-tenth of median net worth of a federal legislator, according to a study by Roll Call released on February 27.

The people’s representatives just keep getting richer, and doing so faster than the people they represent. Indeed, according to Roll Call’s data, the median minimum net worth (meaning half are worth more; half less) of today’s Senators and House members was $511,000 at the start of this Congress, an upward push of 16% over just the past two years. The total wealth of all current members was at least $2.43 billion when the 115th Congress began.

The political news source noted, “The disparity becomes clear after examining the most recent financial disclosures of virtually every current lawmaker. The news is not likely to do them any good during a midterm campaign year when disapproval of Capitol Hill remains in record territory and sentiment remains strong that politicians in Washington are far too disconnected from the lives of their constituents.”

For every 13 members of the U.S. Congress, Roll Call found, one may fairly be dubbed a “1 percenter,” the term of derision imposed by liberal groups on the richest 1% of Americans. Data from the Federal Reserve pegged the net worth threshold for these people at $10.4 million in 2016, a mark exceeded by 26 Republicans and 17 Democrats during this session of Congress.

Specifically, more than half of the collective worth of Congress is held by 12 members, Roll Call documented. Among the 10 richest member of the current U.S. Congress are the following:

  1. Darrell Issa (R-California): $283M
  2. Greg Guianforte (R-Montana): $136M
  3. Jared Polis (D-Colorado): $123M
  4. Dave Trott (R-Michigan) $119M
  5. Michael McCaul (R-Rexas): $113M
  6. John Delaney (D-Maryland) $93M
  7. Mark Warner (D-Virginia): $93M
  8. Vern Buchanan (R-Florida) $74M
  9. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut): $70M
  10. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) $58M
  11. Tom Rooney (R-Florida): $55M
  12. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Indiana): $50M

Below this rung of the phenomenally prosperous is a thicker belt of the merely flush— the 153 House members (13 more than in the previous Congress) and 50 senators who are millionaires, at least on paper. This stands in contrast to the 7.4% of U.S. households that had amassed a net worth above $1 million in 2016, their home values included, according to the Spectrum Group investment research firm.

By coincidence, 38% of the women in Congress are millionaires—identical to the share of millionaires in the total membership.

The congressional millionaire ranks skew old, “reinforcing how many people enter politics only after they’ve assured themselves of a solid financial footing.” Roll Call said. A little more than half of the five dozen lawmakers born before the end of World War II are worth more than $1 million, as are 43% of the Hill’s Baby Boomers (or the five out of eight members born between 1946 and 1964). But among the quarter of the membership from Generation X and the handful of Millennials, only 20% are millionaire.

At the other end of the spectrum are nearly one-quarter of the members (123),  whose financial disclosures reflect a negative net worth. For many this is true only on paper, because they owe plenty on their home mortgages, which must be reported while the value of their real estate is not. (Neither is their annual $174,000 government salary.)

And in the middle are the “typical” members, with senators boasting a significantly better median net worth ($1.4 million for Republicans, $946,000 for Democrats) than House members, where the median figure for both caucuses is just north of $400,000.

A very similar figure, $397,000, is the minimum net worth disclosed on the essentially identical form for 2016 filled out by Vice President Mike Pence, who spent a dozen years as a federal legislator from Indiana.

President Donald Trump’s most recent form, however, describes a chief executive far richer than anyone in the legislative branch-—worth at least $1.1 billion at the time of his election.

Research contact: davidhawkings@cqrollcall.com

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