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New Members Are Among Richest in Congress

More than one-third of the freshman lawmakers in the 112th Congress are millionaires, and as many as 15 are likely to rank among the richest Members of Congress this year, according to a Roll Call analysis of financial disclosure records. 

Individual wealth varies widely among the new House and Senate lawmakers, from a handful who report deficits of up to several hundred thousand dollars to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who tops the list with a minimum net worth of about $64 million.

At least 40 freshmen reported a minimum net worth of $1 million or more. Among those lawmakers, at least 15 have a minimum net worth of $5 million or more, likely placing them among the 50 richest Members of Congress.

Roll Call’s survey includes 112 freshman lawmakers, including the five Members elected in November but sworn in to their respective chambers during the 111th Congress. 

Among the 15 wealthiest members of the freshman class, four are Senators and 11 are House lawmakers. Blumenthal is the only Democrat.

Blumenthal’s wealth stems in part from his wife, Cynthia Blumenthal, who is the daughter of New York real estate magnate Peter Malkin. 

The Senator lists numerous real estate investments, including “over $1 million” in both the Empire State Building Associates, which holds a 114-year master lease on the New York landmark, and “over $1 million” in the Empire State Building Co., which operates the building.

The value of those assets could be significantly higher, however. Members are permitted to value assets owned wholly by their spouses or dependents in a special category that states only “over $1 million.” 

Also near the top of the list are Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), with a minimum net worth of about $34 million; Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), with a minimum net worth of almost $29 million; and Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.), with a minimum net worth close to $21 million. 

Renacci, who established and later sold a nursing home business, reports five investment accounts worth a combined $29 million.

His diverse portfolio also includes investments in nursing home administration, a concert promoter, Harley-Davidson dealerships, real estate and the JetHawks, a minor league baseball team in Lancaster, Calif.

Black’s largest investment is her husband’s stake in the Nashville, Tenn.-based Aegis Sciences Corp., valued at $25 million to $50 million.

Black also reports a half-dozen real estate properties under Ebon Falcon, valued at a combined minimum of $8.5 million. 

Berg is likewise heavily invested in real estate, including apartment buildings and commercial properties. 

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) reports a minimum personal wealth of about $14 million, although his office said he expects to file amendments to reconcile apparent inconsistencies in his report, which could shift his bottom line.

A number of Members contacted by Roll Call — ranging from the wealthy to those apparently in the red — said they planned to amend their reports to add assets, adjust values or correct liabilities. Such changes can dramatically shift a Member’s wealth on the annual filings, even when there is no change in their actual finances. 

Other wealthy freshmen include Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), with an estimated minimum net worth of close to $12 million; Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), with a minimum net worth of nearly $11 million; and Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.), with a minimum net worth of about $9.5 million. 

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Reps. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) and Bill Flores (R-Texas) each report a minimum net worth of about $8 million. Pearce, who previously served in the House from 2003 to 2008, landed at No. 31 on Roll Call’s list of the 50 richest Members of Congress in 2008 with a similar fortune. 

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who served in the House from 1993 to 2006, has also previously appeared on Roll Call’s annual survey of the richest Members. His most recent financial disclosure shows a minimum net worth of about $6 million. 

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) reports a minimum net worth of about $7 million.

Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) are also possible contenders for Congress’ most exclusive club, both reporting a minimum net worth of at least $5 million. 

The threshold for entry into the 50 richest Members of Congress in 2010 was a minimum reported net worth of about $5.5 million. 

A Roll Call evaluation of the wealth in the House in 2009 found that 125 lawmakers reported a minimum net worth of $1 million or more. That same year, 50 Senators of 98 surveyed also reported a minimum net worth of $1 million or more. In total, about one-third of the Members of the 111th Congress reported assets of at least $1 million on their 2009 financial disclosures. 

Member wealth is calculated based on the financial disclosure forms they filed either as candidates in spring 2010 or, in the case of some freshman Senators, as Members of the House. Each of the reports includes assets or debts from calendar year 2009, and in most cases a portion of 2010. 

Both Congressional candidates and lawmakers are required to file annual financial disclosure forms detailing their personal assets — including bank accounts, investment accounts and retirement accounts — as well as related liabilities such as credit card debt or other loans. 

But the forms often do not present a complete picture of a Member’s personal wealth.

While Members must generally report assets that generate income such as rental homes, they are not compelled to disclose other assets, including their own homes or vacation properties, that do not generate income.

Members are not required to list the specific value of assets or debts; they utilize wide-ranging categories such as $1,001 to $15,000 and $1 million to $5 million.

Roll Call determines a lawmaker’s minimum net worth by adding the minimum reported value of each asset — for example, an item listed in the $1 million to $5 million category is counted as $1 million — and subtracting the minimum value of any liabilities. 

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