Members of Congress are getting wealthier

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 6:26am

WASHINGTON — There's one thing many Democratic and Republican members of Congress have in common: They're rich.

The 113th Congress, which convened the first week of January, has slightly more wealth than members of Congress the previous year, according to new research from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The median estimated net worth of all members of the current Congress was $966,000 in 2011, the latest year of financial disclosure data available, compared to a median net worth for members of the 112th Congress of $886,000 in 2010.

When looking at just the 94 new members of the House and Senate that number jumps. At $1,067,500, the median net worth of the freshmen in Congress was almost $1 million more than the average American household, which came in around $66,700.

And Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas has taken fellow Republican Rep. Darrell Issa's spot as the wealthiest member of Congress. McCaul, whose wife's father is chairman of Clear Channel Communications, has an estimated average net worth of $500.1 million, while the comparable number for the congressman from California, Issa, is $480.3 million.

With an average estimated net worth of $235.9 million, the wealthiest Democrat is Sen. John Kerry, who will soon undergo confirmation hearings as President Obama's nominee for Secretary of State. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia comes in second at $228.1 million.

Among the new members, Rep. John K. Delaney, D-Maryland, is the richest freshman, with an average estimated net worth of $139 million. Delaney co-founded CapitalSource, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.

On the other end of the wealth spectrum, the "poorest" member of Congress is freshman Rep. David Valadao, R-California. He has an average estimated net worth of negative $15.6 million due to large lines of credit related to his dairy farm, according to the CRP.

Which party is the wealthiest?

Unlike in the last Congress, the Democrats overall had a higher median estimated net worth ($990,000) compared to Republicans at $907,000. In the year prior, during the 112th Congress, the numbers were flipped and Democrats were worth about $79,000 less than Republicans.

Breaking it down by chamber, senators are wealthier than House members. According to the data, the median estimated net worth for lawmakers in the upper chamber was $2.52 million, while U.S. representatives came in at $856,000.

The estimates are based on financial disclosure forms for the year ending December 31, 2011.

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