Nearly half the Senators now in office don’t qualify for the chamber’s famed “millionaires club.”
But they’re still probably wealthier than you.
A Roll Call analysis of Senate financial disclosure forms filed in 2009 shows 48 of the chamber’s Members fell short of the $1 million mark, but nonetheless nearly all reported minimum net worths above the typical American household.
The remaining 50 Senators record minimum net worths of at least $1 million or more.
The survey included 98 Senators. Disclosure forms from newly appointed Sens. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) and Paul Kirk (D-Mass.) are not yet publicly available.
Wealth in the chamber ranges from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — the richest Member of Congress overall — who tops the list with a minimum net worth of at least $167.55 million, to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who registers a negative $40,000.
Overall, the chamber claims a combined minimum net worth of nearly $651 million, or an average of about $6.64 million per Senator.
The median value of the Senators registers at $1.06 million, falling between Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) at a minimum net worth of $1 million and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) at $1.12 million.
“The Senate is known as being the wealthiest chamber in Congress. Senators have to have a lot of resources in order to be able to wage an effective campaign,” Public Citizen’s Craig Holman noted.
But Holman added: “There is a great deal of concern because the Senate does not reflect the demographics of the country as a whole. We’re dealing with a body that does not reflect America.”
Roll Call’s analysis of Senators’ wealth is based solely on the information lawmakers must provide in their annual 2009 financial disclosure reports, which cover calendar year 2008.
Roll Call determines each lawmaker’s minimum net worth by adding the lowest number in the range reported for each asset — for example, a $1 million to $5 million asset would be evaluated at $1 million — and subtracting the lowest total liabilities.
Although lawmakers are compelled to reveal information about assets including investment accounts or rental properties, the disclosure process protects Members from divulging other economic indicators, such as the value of homes as well as antiques, vehicles and other valuables.
The exclusion of homes — Senators are not required to report properties that do not generate income, including vacation homes or part-time residences — can potentially skew the public perception of a lawmaker’s true wealth.
Although Baucus ranks last in the chamber’s tally, District of Columbia property records show he sold his Georgetown home in late April for $2.1 million, shortly after he announced his divorce from his wife, Wanda. D.C. property records also report Baucus purchased a new three-bedroom Capitol Hill home in June, now valued at $907,000. Baucus will not be required to reveal these transactions in next year’s filing.
The only other Senator to report a negative net worth, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), also owns Capitol Hill property, according to public records. The Senator’s three-bedroom home is valued at more than $675,000.
Even without the added value related to such major assets, however, 92 of those Senators reported net worth above that of typical American households.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report issued in 2008, the median net worth for households headed by 55- to 64-year-olds reached $133,000 — or just $34,000 excluding home equity — in 2002, the most recent data available.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.