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Congress Cashes Out as Rich Members Depart

Of the top 10 flushest lawmakers, four are packing their bags

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has been Congress’ richest member for years. Now he and several other multimillionaires are headed for the exits. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has been Congress’ richest member for years. Now he and several other multimillionaires are headed for the exits. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The combined wealth of Congress is set to plummet next year after a deluge of departures and the results of the midterm elections. Some of the wealthiest lawmakers on Capitol Hill won’t be returning next year, and the body’s $2.43 billion of personal net worth will drop by $933 million. 

Biggest retirements

Of the top 10 richest members of Congress, four are packing their bags. Most are staying in the public sector. California Rep. Darrell Issa, net worth of $283 million and the perennially richest member of Congress, announced his retirement in January 2018. The inventor of the Viper car alarm was expected to leave public office but will move to the Trump administration, after being appointed to the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis won his gubernatorial bid and will be sworn in come January. A tech investor, Polis brings his net worth of $122 million to the state capital.

Rep. Dave Trott, whose seat flipped for Democrat Haley Stevens in 2018, returns to the private sector with $119 million.

Maryland’s John Delaney does not have an immediate home after 2019, but he’s set his sights on the White House. The third-term lawmaker and former private equity investment executive announced on July 2017 that he would make a run at the presidency.

Rich in defeat

Rep. James B. Renacci lost his bid for the Senate and now leaves Congress with an estimated net worth of $34 million.

In New Jersey, Rep. Tom MacArthur lost a tightly contested race to Democrat Andy Kim. He departs with an estimated $30 million in net worth.

Rep. Steve Pearce unsuccessfully sought the New Mexico governorship against fellow Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and now leaves Congress with his $7.5 million. Hawaii’s Colleen Hanabusa, who came back to the 115th Congress after a brief departure, retires again from public office following defeat in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Sen. Claire McCaskill is the richest Democratic member defeated in a re-election bid. Her $27 million mostly come from her husband, real estate developer Joseph Shepard. Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke lost in his highly publicized bid for the Senate. He takes $3 million in net worth with him.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter and Sen. John McCain, both millionaires, died in 2018. The longtime Arizona senator had a net worth of $14 million and was the 34th richest member during the 115th Congress.

Retirement savings

Florida’s Tom Rooney, who held more than $55 million in net worth from his holdings in the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and a stacked trust fund, announced his retirement in February 2018.

After New Jersey’s Rodney Frelinghuysen decided not to seek re-election, he saw his House seat flip to Democratic Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill. Frelinghuysen held more than $28 million.

Sen. Bob Corker, a commercial real estate developer before he got into politics, was the richest senator to announce his retirement. He was worth $23 million.

Members in the red

Twenty-three members of Congress who listed more in liabilities than assets will not return for the 116th Congress. California’s David Valadao leaves with his net negative $17 million. The dairy farmer from California’s Central Valley regularly won the honor of Congress’ “poorest” member. He was defeated in a long contest with Democratic opponent TJ Cox.

New money?

On first glance, three Republican senators are almost certain to join the ranks of the richest members in Congress. Years in the private sector, including at investment firm Bain Capital, have made Sen.-elect Mitt Romney millions. His financial disclosure included unique high-value assets like mutual funds in excess of $20 million and horses owned by his wife, Ann Romney.

Indiana’s Mike Braun, who defeated first-term Sen. Joe Donnelly, is a former auto parts and marketing distributor executive. A career in the automotive industry was one of the common sources of wealth for the 50 richest members of Congress.

Outgoing Florida Gov. Rick Scott defeated Sen. Bill Nelson, with $64 million of his own money. Scott made his fortune as the CEO of Columbia/HCA and had built substantial personal wealth prior to running for public office.

Among Democrats, California’s Gil Cisneros will certainly take a spot among Congress’ new richest members list. The former naval officer won $266 million in a 2010 lottery and largely self-funded his bid for Congress.

Another Democrat who might make the 50 richest in the 116th is Rep.-elect Dean Phillips. The Minnesota businessman comes from an influential family and was once the co-owner of gelato company Talenti.

Watch: A Guide to Roll Call’s Wealth of Congress

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