It’s long been said that big business and politics go hand in hand. It should come as no surprise then that many members of the US Congress continue to do well monetarily even in the current economic climate. Despite the rough patch the US has navigated the past few years, many lawmakers in Washington are not feeling the pinch. From 2007 to 2010, the net worth of Congress grew by 5%, while the richest legislators had their wealth assets increase by 14%. All this occurred during the biggest recession since the 1930s; most Americans saw their net worth decrease by 39% during this time.
That’s not to say that all members of congress are well off. In fact, more than 40 members of congress reported assets of less than $25,000, effectively placing them near poverty levels. It’s highly unlikely they are on welfare, however. Many assets for those in Washington go unlisted, from all income levels. Also, neither party has a large majority of wealthy members. Overall, Republicans hold a slight edge of the 253 millionaires in the 535-member legislative body. In the Senate, Democrats have the money majority.
With the election finished and a new congress on the horizon, let’s look at the richest representatives of the upcoming 113th congress:
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Net Worth: $85.6 million
Lautenberg’s net worth has risen by 63% the past eight years.
Lautenberg is a big supporter of gun control, especially after former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was wounded. But the legislation has gone nowhere. His next election will be in 2016.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
Net Worth: $99.1 million
Rockefeller only lost a small amount of his family fortune during the recent economic downturn. His net worth slipped by 3% from 2004 to 2010.
Rockefeller has been fighting business opposition to the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which aims to combat cybercrime and protect national infrastructure from online threats. He is a co-sponsor. Many businesses argue they are best left to decide for themselves how to deal with online threats. He is up for reelection in 2014.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Net Worth: $101.1 million
Pelosi has pushed for $50 million in earmarks for a light-rail project that will build a line to San Francisco’s Union Square and Chinatown from neighborhoods south of Market Street. Pelosi’s husband owns a four-story commercial building within blocks of Union Square.
A Pelosi spokesman said the new stations on the line would be farther from her husband’s building than those on the existing line, thus negating any allegations of conflicts of interest in seeing the line built. She was easily reelected this past election.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.
Net Worth: $136.2 million
Buchanan owns two reinsurance companies in Turks and Caicos; he also partly owns a reinsurance company in Bermuda. These companies offer extended warranty policies to car buyers.
Buchanan invests some of the profits of these companies in real estate properties in the Bahamas. He won reelection Nov. 6.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo.
Net Worth: $143.2 million
Polis made his fortune selling an online business. He spent $6 million on his initial 2008 congressional campaign. He also helped Congress pass the Internet Radio Fairness Act. He won reelection Nov. 6.
Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis.
Net Worth: $173.5 million
Kohl is a businessman, philanthropist and politician. He is also the owner of the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks. His net worth has been cut by nearly half since 2006.
Kohl did not seek re-election this year.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
Net Worth: $192.7 million
Warner is a former governor of Virginia, in office from 2002 to 2006. He left Richmond with high approval ratings and remains very popular. It is rumored he is considering running for the governorship again.
Warner’s net worth fell by 19% between 2007 and 2010. He is up for reelection in 2014.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
Net Worth: $231.7 million
Kerry was the Democratic candidate in the 2004 presidential election, eventually losing to GOP candidate George W. Bush. His net worth has declined 16% during the current recession.
In 1995, Kerry’s wealth increased with his marriage to Teresa Heinz, the widow of former U.S. Sen. John Heinz.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas
Net Worth: $380.4 million
McCaul’s net worth has skyrocketed by 1,013% since 2004, the year he was elected to office. Some of the increase comes from marriage. His wife, Linda, is the daughter of the Clear Channel Communications chairman. He was reelected again earlier this month.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Net Worth: $448.1 million
Issa raised $815,000 in earmarks between 2007 and 2009 to widen a road less than a mile from a medical building in Vista, California. Ironically, the lawmaker purchased the property for $16.6 million in 2008, and recently sold it on Jan. 19 for $15 million. These earmarks were reported by The New York Times and by the Center for American Progress in both March and August of this year.
“Rep. Issa’s request for the widening project was made on behalf of local leaders and predated his purchase of the medical center building,” a spokesman for the representative said. Quote – The Washington Post.
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