237 Millionaires in Congress

(CBS/AP)
Even in tough times, it's good to be a lawmaker: According to a report released this week by the Center for Responsive Politics, there are 237 millionaires serving in Congress, according to 2008 figures.

That's a slight decline from the previous year, when there were 239 millionaires in the House and Senate. But it still reflects the fact that the average lawmaker is far wealthier than his or her typical constituent. While about one percent of Americans are millionaires, 44 percent of those serving in Congress can claim as much.

"The biggest takeaway from all of this is that even thought the collective wealth of members of congress appears to have declined, members of Congress are still so much more wealthy than the average American – and even more wealthy than a lot of wealthy Americans," CRP spokesman Dave Levinthal told Hotsheet.

The richest member of Congress is Republican California Rep. Darrell Issa, whose net worth is estimated to be in excess of $250 million. He's followed by four Democrats: California's Jane Harman (approx. $245 million), Wisconsin's Herb Kohl (approx. $215 million), Virginia's Mark Warner (approx. $210 million) and Massachusetts' John Kerry (approx. $209 million).

Among the top 25 wealthiest legislators – which includes boldface names Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein and Olympia Snowe – there are 14 Democrats and 11 Republicans, suggesting no clear wealth divisions between party.

The net worth calculated for the lawmakers is not exact, and CPR offers a wide range of possible net worths for each member. Levinthal said that lawmakers tend to report assets and liabilities, income, gifts and asset transactions, as required by law, in very broad ranges; the listed figure, he said, represents an estimate between two possible extremes. (Primary residences and government salaries are not reported, and thus not included.)

The least wealthy member of Congress, the report found, is Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings, whose net worth is calculated to be negative $4,732,002 (!). Other lawmakers to make the bottom 25 are Montana's Max Baucus and Ohio's Dennis Kucinich. Keep in mind, however, that these lawmakers likely have substantial unreported assets, including their residences.

In the executive branch, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the second wealthiest, with a net worth of about $21 million; she trails only Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary L. Schapiro. The least wealthy administration figure is Vice President Joe Biden, whose net worth is estimated at just $27,012. (President Obama comes in at $3,670,505.)

The median reportable net worth of senators declined from $2.27 million to a still-robust $1.79 million between 2007 and 2008. Kerry, Warner, Feinstein and Sen. John McCain all experienced double-digit percentage declines in their average, estimated wealth between the two years.

The median reportable net worth for members of the House in 2008 was $622,254.

Levinthal notes that "in some cases, [lawmakers'] wealth is being derived from the very companies that in many cases benefit from the taxpayers."

"The top companies at which members of Congress are investing, many of them are TARP recipients that have received billions and billions of dollars from you and me," he said.

Among the companies in which members of Congress hold assets are Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.

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