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Capital in the Capitol

The report did not include assets such as equity in pension plans, cash value of life insurance policies, home furnishings or jewelry.

Nonetheless, financially secure Members, even whose fortunes exceed the $1 million mark, shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as anomalies, noted Norman Ornstein, an American Enterprise Institute scholar and co-author of Vital Statistics on Congress.

“Keep in mind that you’ve got ... many Members who had professional lives for a significant period of time before they came to Congress, so for a lot of these people, for most of them, the buildup of their net worth and capital came earlier,” said Ornstein, a Roll Call contributing writer.

“You probably find not many middle-age professionals out there now — lawyers, doctors, small-business people, brokers — in their late 40s to mid-60s who don’t have a net worth of somewhere around a million dollars or more.”

While both Democrats and Republicans have a penchant for wealthy candidates who can self-fund their campaigns and alleviate fundraising pressures on the parties’ campaign committees, it is less clear whether the electorate values a candidate’s bottom line.

“It’s a great question because all politicians say they understand working Americans, and yet you’ve got liberal Democrats from Nevada who are millionaires and conservative Republicans who are millionaires,” said Eric Herzik, chairman of the University of Nevada’s Department of Political Science.

According to Roll Call’s survey, every member of the Nevada House delegation — Reps. Shelley Berkley (D), Dina Titus (D) and Dean Heller (R) — claims a minimum wealth of at least $1.47 million. Sens. Harry Reid (D) and John Ensign (R) also both claim fortunes in the millions.

Delaware’s delegation claims the only other all-millionaire lineup: Rep. Mike Castle’s (R) net worth tallies at least $2.7 million, while Democratic Sens. Tom Carper and Ted Kaufman reported fortunes of $2.17 million and $7.97 million, respectively.

“A candidate has to have a certain amount of education, a certain amount of success. The public expects that,” Herzik added. “Then you do ask the question of, ‘But can they relate to people like me?’ That’s the art of politics.”

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