50 Richest Are Different From You and the Rest of Congress

Posted September 16, 2013 at 12:09pm

The 50 Richest Members of Congress are different from the rest of their colleagues in so many ways, but here’s one way in which they are the same: There are nine women on the roster, or 18 percent of the lawmakers with the highest minimum net worth last year. And women hold precisely 18 percent of all the combined seats in the House and Senate.

Aside from that parity, though, the demographics of the wealthiest lawmakers are significantly different from the overall makeup of Congress, which of course is still way more white and male than the overall American population.

There is only one non-Anglo on the entire list for 2012, compiled by CQ Roll Call from the financial disclosure reports of every one of the members. That would be Rep. Bill Flores, a Hispanic Republican from Texas who’s a former energy company executive; he came in at No. 49, with a net worth of $6.7 million. (Overall, 17 percent of the members of the 113th Congress are either Hispanic, African-American, Asian American, American Indian or Native Hawaiian.

The list also skews Republican: 29 of the lawmakers, or 58 percent, are in the GOP, but the overall membership of both halves of Congress is 52 percent. That said, Democrats account for eight of the dozen richest — those with a net worth cresting at $30 million.

The list also reflects the common perception that senators tend to be better-off than House members: 13 percent of the Senate made the cut, but only 8 percent of House members.

The roster also offers reminders that membership turnover is more a part of the congressional dynamic than is commonly assumed — and that great wealth, once attained, is not squandered all that easily. Only 14 of the lawmakers who were on the 50 Richest list a decade ago (Roll Call has been calculating it since 1990) remain in Congress today.

And only three of those veterans have slipped off the latest roster. All are Republican senators: John McCain of Arizona, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.