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50 Richest Members of Congress: The Wealth Keeps Growing

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
After years hovering near the top of the table, Issa took the No. 1 spot on the 50 Richest list on the strength of holdings that swelled about $135 million in value.

A surprisingly strong year in the financial markets made the richest members of Congress even wealthier in 2012, with the median net worth of the 50 richest rising more than 17 percent, CQ Roll Call’s annual survey of congressional wealth shows.

Lawmakers’ portfolios shrugged off pre-election jitters, concerns about the European debt crisis and suspense surrounding the fiscal cliff. It took a minimum reported net worth of $6.67 million just to crack the exclusive 50 Richest club.

Financial disclosures also revealed a widening gap between members’ wealth and that of their constituents. The median net worth of the 112th Congress stood at $442,007 in 2012. Nineteen percent of lawmakers reported no debts at all, while 15 percent had trusts.

In contrast, the median household net worth in the United States stood at $68,828 in 2011, with 69 percent of households holding some form of debt, according to the most recent U.S. Census statistics. Median household net worth decreased by 16 percent from 2000 to 2011, those figures show.

CQ Roll Call has reviewed the annual financial disclosure reports filed by all House and Senate lawmakers since 1990 to calculate the 50 richest members of Congress. Their minimum net worth is determined by subtracting the total minimum value of all liabilities from the total minimum value of all assets.

The disclosure forms reveal details such as each lawmaker’s stock market holdings, rental properties, checking accounts, credit card balances, student loans and other assets and liabilities.

Even so, the forms provide an incomplete and, in some cases, misleading picture of the overall wealth of lawmakers.

Assets and liabilities are listed in broad valuation categories spanning millions of dollars, making it impossible to determine a lawmaker’s precise net worth unless the individual opts to voluntarily disclose the actual dollar amounts. And though they’re required to report the value of mutual funds, stock holdings, bank accounts and other assets, they don’t have to disclose the value of personal residences or federal retirement savings accounts.

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