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Wealth of Congress Jumps $150 Million

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It was a good year for members of Congress in one respect: their pocketbooks.  

Roll Call has for decades calculated the “50 Richest” members of Congress by poring through financial disclosure forms, and this year, we’ve taken the added step of tallying the minimum net worth of every member of Congress .  

(Visit our interactive to see the full ranking, which includes representatives, senators and delegates. Because there are three vacancies in Congress, there are 538 members on the list.)

The combined minimum net worth of Congress jumped — up more than $150 million to $2.1 billion — according to a CQ Roll Call analysis of the financial disclosure forms for every member of Congress and delegate who filed one for 2013.  

That’s an increase of about $300,000 to $3.9 million per lawmaker — although, as with the general public, most of the wealth is concentrated at the top.  

The top five lawmakers on the list had more than 37 percent of the combined minimum net worth reported of all 538 members and delegates, according to the CQ Roll Call analysis. The minimum net worth of the 50 Richest was $1.7 billion, or more than 80 percent of the total for the entire Congress.  

The richest person on our annual 50 Richest list , Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, has a net worth of at least $357 million, calculated by subtracting the minimum reported liabilities from the minimum reported assets. That means Issa alone accounts for more than one-sixth of the entire Congress’ reported minimum net worth.  And two of the top five — No. 3 Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and No. 4 Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, both Democrats — accounted for $67.85 million of the increased net worth of all of Congress.  

Our analysis also found at least 188 millionaires — about a third of Congress — up from 185 the previous year.  

It’s not a secret that one of the easier ways to get to Congress is to be rich in the first place, given the cost of campaigning and the hassles of fundraising.  

The median lawmaker on our ranking has a minimum net worth of $456,522 — not too shabby.  

The Senate is richer on average than the House — no surprise.  

The minimum net worth of the Senate is nearly $570 million, with 50 senators topping $1 million.  

The House has a minimum net worth of $1.53 billion, with at least 138 millionaires but a median of just $338,000.  

The actual reported wealth of Congress would be significantly higher if Congress required members to disclose all of their assets and to disclose them with precision.  

But assets and liabilities are disclosed in broad ranges — such as $1 million to $5 million — or more than $50 million, obscuring Congress’ true wealth. Lawmakers have the ability to get more specific in their filings, but few do.  

Disclosure rules also require lawmakers to list mortgages, which count against net worth, but not home values, which would be one of the biggest assets of many members.  

Non-interest-bearing bank accounts also do not have to be disclosed, no matter the value, nor do personal assets such as cars or home furnishings.  

Rockefeller, for instance, could theoretically be worth billions. His two biggest assets are trusts simply listed as having “more than $50 million” in assets, which for the purposes of the CQ Roll Call minimum net worth calculation count as $50,000,001 each.  

Congress is certainly much richer on average than the general public, although 2013 was an excellent year for household wealth as well, according to Federal Reserve data. Household and nonprofit net worth in the U.S. increased by more than $9 trillion, to $78.8 trillion last year alone.  

But while net worth of U.S. households has never been higher, median net worth — the folks in the middle — has generally lagged.  

The latest figures from the Census Bureau — from 2011 — show a median net worth of $68,828 per household.  

You can see every member of Congress in our updated interactive on the wealth of Congress at this link .  

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