For First Time Ever, Most Members Of Congress Are Millionaires

Tyler Durden's picture

A month ago, we showed a chart of median household income in the US versus that just in the District of Columbia. The punchline wrote itself: "what's bad for America is good for Washington, D.C."

Today we got official verification that Bernanke's wealth transfer in addition to benefitting the richest 1%, primarily those dealing with financial assets, also led to a material increase in the wealth of one particular subgroup of the US population: its politicians.

According to the OpenSecrets blog which conveniently tracks the wealth of America's proud recipients of lobbying dollars, aka Congress, for the first time ever the majority of America's lawmakers are worth more than $1 million.

Specifically, of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, according to disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress and candidates. The median net worth for the 530 current lawmakers who were in Congress as of the May filing deadline was $1,008,767 -- an increase from last year when it was $966,000. In addition, at least one of the members elected since then, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), is a millionaire, according to forms she filed as a candidate. (There is currently one vacancy in Congress.)

Last year only 257 members, or about 48 percent of lawmakers, had a median net worth of at least $1 million.

Because who better to debate the class divide raging across the US thanks to the Federal Reserve's $4+ trillion balance sheet than a room full of millionaires. On the other hand, perhaps it means they will be less bribable by "donations" and other lobbying funding...

... Yeah, we LOLed at that one too.

OpenSecrets was about as cynical as us: "Members of Congress have long been far wealthier than the typical American, but the fact that now a majority of members -- albeit just a hair over 50 percent -- are millionaires represents a watershed moment at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources, as well as considering an overhaul of the tax code."

"Despite the fact that polls show how dissatisfied Americans are with Congress overall, there's been no change in our appetite to elect affluent politicians to represent our concerns in Washington, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center. "Of course, it's undeniable that in our electoral system, candidates need access to wealth to run financially viable campaigns, and the most successful fundraisers are politicians who swim in those circles to begin with."

Perhaps one could argue that a country drowning in poverty needs politicians who actually know the troubles that afflict the majority of the population first hand. Actually, according to folklore that is the Democrat party. So it may come as a surprise to some that the median net worth of the average Democrat at $1.1 million (an increase of 11.6% from 2011) is higher than that of any given Republican at just over $1 million, an increase of 10.3% from the prior year.

OpenSecrets breaks down the numbers further:

Congressional Democrats had a median net worth of $1.04 million, while congressional Republicans had a median net worth of almost exactly $1 million. In both cases, the figures are up from last year, when the numbers were $990,000 and $907,000, respectively.


The median net worth for all House members was $896,000 -- that's up from $856,000 in 2011 -- with House Democrats (median net worth: $929,000) holding an edge over House Republicans (median net worth: $884,000). The median net worth for both House Republicans and Democrats was higher than in 2011.


Similarly, the median net worth for all senators increased to $2.7 million from $2.5 million, but in that body it was the Republicans who were better-off. Senate Democrats reported a median net worth of $1.7 million (a decline from 2011's $2.4 million), compared to Senate Republicans, at $2.9 million (an increase from $2.5 million).


Senate Democrats were the only group reporting a drop in their median net worth from the prior year -- a decline that is at least partly because of the loss of two extremely well-off Senate Democrats from the list: now-Secretary of State John Kerry, who had been the wealthiest senator with a 2011 average net worth of $248 million, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) who had an average net worth of $87.5 million before his death last year.

As we all know, some millionaires are richer than other millionaires. So who took the honors this year?

The richest member of Congress was, once again, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Issa, who made his fortune in the car alarm business, had an average net worth of $464 million in 2012. Issa had ruled the roost as the wealthiest lawmaker for several years but was bumped from that perch last year by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).


In our analysis last year, we estimated that McCaul's 2011 average net worth was $500.6 million -- a dramatic increase for him from the year before. McCaul's affluence is primarily due to the holdings of his wife, Linda, the daughter of Clear Channel Communications Chairman Lowry Mays. McCaul took a dramatic tumble from the list's pinnacle, reporting an average net worth of $143.1 million in 2012.


Shed no tears for McCaul, though: His drop wasn't due to any great financial misfortune, but reflects changes in reporting rules. Beginning with reports covering calendar year 2012, high-value assets, income and liabilities belonging to the spouses of House members may be reported as being worth simply "$1 million or more." Previously, the forms required somewhat more specific valuations. So, for example, on his 2011 disclosure McCaul reported that his wife owned a 10.1 percent interest in LLM Family Investments that was worth "more than $50 million." Now, he reports that his wife's share of the fund has increased to 12.2 percent, but he can list it as a "spousal asset over $1,000,000," though it's likely worth much more.


This methodological change (to a system the Senate already uses) also appeared to affect Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). On her disclosure form covering 2010, she reported having an average net worth of $750,000. Then in 2011 she married hedge fund manager Donald Sussman, which increased her average net worth for that year to $85.8 million. Her report for 2012 shows a dramatic decline, to $42.4 million, because of the new reporting rules.


The least wealthy member of Congress in 2012, at least on paper, was Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) -- a slot he occupied the previous year as well. Valdao reported an average net worth of negative $12.1 million in 2012. That's actually a big improvement from 2011, when his average net worth was negative $19 million. According to Valdao's disclosure forms and our interviews with his staff last year, his debt is the result of loans for his family dairy farm.


The second-poorest member of Congress continued to be Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), who for decades has owed millions of dollars for legal bills incurred in the 1980s, when he was charged with accepting a bribe while sitting as a federal judge. As we noted last year, Hastings was acquitted, but later impeached and removed by the Senate before running for Congress in 1992. His level of debt has not changed since 2005.


Although more members of Congress are millionaires than ever before, and the median net worth for all lawmakers is higher than ever, their total net worth -- the value of all their assets minus liabilities -- fell from $4.2 billion in 2011 to $3.9 billion in 2012. Again, that could be at least partly due to the change in the House reporting requirements for spousal assets and liabilities.

Finally there is a question of which financial assets America's millionaire legislators mostly own. The answer should surprise nobody, and will probably also explain the perverted and very symbiotic relationship between the US financial system and the governing class.

General Electric continued to be the most popular investment for current members of Congress. In 2011, there were 71 lawmakers who reported owning shares in the company; in 2012, there were 74. The second most popular holding was the bank Wells Fargo, in which 58 members owned shares (up from 40 in 2011). Financial firms were well-represented in the 10 most popular investments: Bank of America came in sixth (51 members) and JPMorgan Chase was seventh (49 members). Both companies had more congressional investors than in 2011 (11 more for Bank of America and 10 more for JPMorgan Chase.)


Of course, the public can surely expect Congress to pass legislation that would imperil their financial investments. Surely.

And finally, why reflating the housing bubble is on top of the agenda for not only Bernanke, but Congress as well:

Overall, though, real estate was the most popular investment for members of Congress. Their investments in real estate in 2012 were valued at  between $442.2 million and $1.4 billion. The next most popular industry to invest in was securities and investment, with congressional investments being worth between $64.5 million and $229.6 million.

In conclusion: Congratulations to America's millionaire politicians. May they enjoy it in health while it lasts. The wealth that is... and the health.

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Cult_of_Reason's picture

It explains as to why Commissar Bernanke and Comrades at the Fed Politburo determine S&P 500 "fair value."

TruthInSunshine's picture

It's a good thing that Senators & House Members are barred from trading upon inside information.


sunaJ's picture

As the separation between the mega-rich and everyone else becomes more and more vast, the crumbs to the sycophants must become a little larger, too.  Cost of doin' business.


nope-1004's picture

This is 100% indisputable proof that the US gov't is totally corrupt.

And after seeing the above chart, anyone still think the financial markets aren't rigged?



zaphod's picture

Well invested, one million dollars only generates $50K-$60K per year, less minus taxes. In other words one million isn't really f-you/retire money.

They may be making themselves rich, but are making the whole system poorer even faster. Net-net it is a loss even for congressmen.

JohnnyBriefcase's picture

They are richer than you because they are the hardest working people in the USA.

If all the lazy Americans would get a job at Walmart, they too could be millionaires.

seek's picture

Depends on lifestyle. If you live a a lower-middle-class lifestyle, $50K/year is definitely doable.... today.

You are correct, though, they're killing the system and fucking themselves at the same time -- the problem is it's now impossible to be "well invested" without also turning all your capital into "risk capital." Pre-collapse, you could count on near-risk-free 5% returns, and nothing is remotely close to that now, which is why they've fucked over retirees and fixed-income people to an insane level. And that's just nominal returns. Even the best performing funds real (non-BS CPI numbers, but truly real) returns probably aren't much better than what risk-free returns were not that many years ago.

As we all know, this doesn't end well.

MeMadMax's picture

Time to clean out the garbage...


Either it will with votes, on its own, or by force... It will happen...

walküre's picture

They deserve it all. Every last penny of it. They work harder than most people and they represent us day and night. I'm happy to see them do well in their stock portfolios.

Your dictionary should list the names of our politicians right there under the definition of ALTRUISM.

They are prime examples of everything that's good in this world. If I was a believer, I would probably think they are truly the body of a Jesus personified in one group of Congress. Maybe the 2nd Collective Coming or so.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

Excuse me now while I ............


aVileRat's picture

The last time the political class became a mercantalist clique vs. a civic service sector by peerage was the 1600's House of Lords. They had a small problem with some guy called Oliver Cromwell.

Life's funny that way.


DaveyJones's picture

it's an inverse relationship to the wealth of the middle class

doctor10's picture

The present "house of lords" had the foresight to implement "Homeland Security" several years prior to Sept 2008 when they completed the heist.

666's picture

Wake me up when they're billionaires.

Papasmurf's picture

I would like to know where you're finding a risk-free 5-6% yield.

resurger's picture


It turns out that the NSA and the Congress are on the same page.

Chuck Walla's picture

When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion - when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors - when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed.

~ Ayn Rand


Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Time for some wealth redistribution. I'm sure they would agree since that is what they advocate for us.


knukles's picture

Guess the Fed wire transfer system, money laundering laws and the like are all overseen by the Unaudited Portion of the Fed under the Guise and Supervisions of Congress, beholden to the Financial Enablers on The Street, who own the Private Central Bank which can print unlimited fiat at the push of a button.

Occam's Razor is ever so helpful at moments such as these.
No shit, Sherlock



PS  A buddy of mine was told that the olde fashioned mercury thermometers that he'd found in his mom's bathroom cupboard after she'd passed away were illegal to own because of the mercury.
Not to mention that we are forced by the same body of lawmakers to purchase new, mercury filled lights for our homes.

And you fucking wonder where their money comes from.
And that's the declared portion even before they raid the unused campaign contributions.

ebworthen's picture

1.6 Gallon toilets that clog or you have to flush twice.

No incandescent bulbs which means millions of fixtures to the landfill.

TeamDepends's picture

You are crapping too much, citizen!  Reduce at once your caloric intake, and while you're at it, your carbon footprint.

nc551's picture

Maybe the question should be how many ex members of congress are millionaires.

Deathrips's picture


Not really. Give me the winners of the next 5 NFL games and ill be a millionaire too. Inside information isnt risky.





max2205's picture

Here's an idea...don't vote for millionaires

Opps Barry wasn't but is now...back to the board

HardAssets's picture

If they didn't start as millionaires they usually left that way. I guess now the corruption is even more blatant. Oligarchs and minions everywhere.

Ban KKiller's picture

Congress represents whom? Others like themselves, others in the "club". Rulers wonder why they lose their heads!

Pooper Popper's picture

worth millions huh......


To me they are ALL WORTHLESS!

Goatboy's picture

Well known American idiocy:
"If you are so smart why aren't you rich?"
Congress has become pretty smart.
Isnt that good?

TeamDepends's picture

They may make $1M, but they are worth about a buck fiddy.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Well, at least the core of my portfolio since 2009 matches theirs, so that's good news I guess...

Damn my mining and energy equities, damn them to hell!

What products of real value do they produce anyway?

oh, wait...

SillySalesmanQuestion's picture

Of course they are. This is what happens when "corporations are people" and billionaires are paying them off.

Muppet Pimp's picture

The 'corporation people' after taking over DC have seriously crowded out the human people.

SAT 800's picture

Something like that. Personally, I think it would take a serious private investigation firm to find out how much most Senators are worth; most of the payoff money goes in secret offshore hidey holes.

notquantumdum's picture

Regarding "corporations are people," aren't they just as much "people" as unions are?

They are both merely "collectives" of individuals.  How does a group of people suddenly have less rights than the individuals by themselves would have had?

I would prefer it that neither the unions nor the corporations can buy more political ads than the other; just don't give an inherent advantage to either side.  [And make government-worker collective-bargaining, but not government-worker unions nor private-sector-worker collective-bargaining, illegal; it creates too many conflicts of interest to not be corrupted almost immediately by politicians and their cronies when government workers can collectively bargain, in my opinion (and as suggested by FDR in his statements about government worker collective bargaining -- the "voters" will never forget about this if it ever happens, I think he said, or something not quite like that).]

Actually, in my opinion, it would be even better to let everyone who is a US citizen contribute as much as desired to political "speech" as long as every single contribution could be completely traced back to exactly who the individuals are, who contributed, to whom, how much, through whom, and every other dirty detail; all posted on a public internet site [real time, before the politicos can spend the contributions].  Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Bring on the down-arrows!

cougar_w's picture

America has the best government money can buy.

TeamDepends's picture

And the best money government can print.

Meat Hammer's picture

So to summarize, America has the best government that government money can buy.

My head just exploded.

Radical Marijuana's picture

Welcome to the



Government mandated agencies own the vast majority of all publicly traded shares. More than a hundred thousand governmental entities, which could force people to give money to them, have been investing that money into buying up shares in everything that was available to buy.

To be drowned out in the details:

Not only does America have the best government that government powered fiat money can buy, but America also has its collective government owning the economy. The revolving door that allows individuals to move between corporate positions and public positions is relatively trivial compared to the revolving doors that have allowed collective government to buy up ownership of the economy. The OUROBOROS is a serpent that eats its own tail, which, in this case, means that the government has legalized corruption on an astronomically large scale, whereby the power to tax has been used to back up making money out of nothing, which money has been used to buy up almost everything that could be bought.

The ouroborous might have originally been created by a small group of wealthy families. However, that system, driven by the stampeding herds of professional money managers, has trampled across everything, and now threatens to stampede off a cliff. Not only do Congress members own shares in the same big corporations, but moreover, and much more importantly, more than a hundred thousand entities, to which have been delegated the power to tax, have used that money to buy up the overwhelming majority ownership in almost everything that could be bought.

The full scale of the existing and growing ouroboros of incorporated robbery is such that one's head could not possibly explode enough to comprehend how extreme that paradoxical supernova has truly become. The fascist plutocracy that was originally started by patriarchal militarism, but which then was driven by the influence of wealthy families to become more abstractly evil by the numbers, has now created a self-enclosed system of corruption, which is metaphorically like America, and the rest of the world, has already gone beyond its event horizon into a social black hole. The morality of militarism, and the ruling classes, has runaway to become what controls America, through computerized numbers, whose algorithms were originally created by the militaristic ruling classes, as their morality, and attitudes towards everyone else, have been codified into the ways that the professional money managers run in their herds, to operate their spiraling ouroboros of incorporated robberies, whereby the legalized power to rob, which was enjoyed by government, was delegated to governmentally powered institutions, which steadily used that power to buy up more and more ownership of everything that could be bought.

The insane privatization of public powers, which started with legalizing of the counterfeiting of the public money supply by private banks, has spun around faster and faster, for more than a Century, so that, the government became more totally corrupted, and thereby, more totally triumphant inside of that corruption. That degree of incestuous relationships goes beyond the ability to imagine. The examples outlined in this article are merely the tiniest tips of the iceberg of these events, that the economic systems no longer have any meaningful distinctions between private and public domains, because public powers were privatized, which then enabled public entities to evolve within those systems to buy up almost all ownership of the private world.

The banksters corrupted governments to privatize the power to make the public money supply out of nothing, as debts. Then governments legalized using their powers to create institutions which could use de facto tax money to buy up most of the ownership of the biggest private banks, as well as almost everything else whose shares for sale. The power of government was privatized, and then, the power of government was used to buy up ownership of the banks to whom that power to make money out of nothing was originally given to. The resulting ouroboros of incorporated robbery now truly has no beginning nor ending. It is all one vast interconnected system of toroidal vortices, of organized lies, operating organized robberies, all of which were legalized, and thus given the power to eat each other. Thus, the American economic system is now allophagia, of everything eating everything else, on such a colossal scale that almost nobody can comprehend that anymore, although Congress is embodying those trends, in the ways that this article indicated.

NeedleDickTheBugFucker's picture

Who knew that "public service" was so lucrative?

Debt-Is-Not-Money's picture

"public service" has the same meaning as "Stud Service".

hidingfromhelis's picture

In stud service, something economically useful is the result.  In the other, the public just ends up fucked.  

ebworthen's picture

Do not wonder why Banks/Insurers/Corporations were bailed out and none of the big sharks were jailed.

CONgress members know who butters their bread.

willwork4food's picture

For the first time ever, your'e going to see some very nicely dressed politicians doing the hula dance underneath the cherry trees 6" above the ground.

Charles Nelson Reilly's picture

19 mill in the hole?!? Call Yellen.... She'll have that corrected by 10am tomorrow.

reader2010's picture

Where's Comrade Stalin when the purge is needed? 

nmewn's picture

Fucking thieves.

HardAssets's picture

Is there anyone stupid enough to take the upcoming elections seriously?

nmewn's picture

"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." - Plato

Either we do or we take up the gun...or both? ;-)

notquantumdum's picture

Every single election I can vote in -- without fail -- I hold my nose and vote for whichever politicians I think have the best chance of beating the politicians who I feel have a good chance of winning, but whom I fear the most (no matter how little I like the politicians I have to vote for, in order to do that)!

nmewn's picture

Right now they kinda got people over a barrel..."These are your two choices, pick one."

It say's a lot about the Choice Givers doesn't it?

notquantumdum's picture

Primaries do matter [somewhat].

Changing parties just to vote in the other primary is appealing to me every once in a while [in my closed-party primary area].

That's still not very many choices, most of the time, is it.