CQ Roll Call has calculated the net worth of every member of Congress every year since 1990. Net worth is derived by subtracting total minimum liabilities from total minimum assets reported in membersí annual financial disclosure statements.
Members are required to report their assets and liabilities only in broad ranges of minimums, starting at $1 to $1,000 and ending with any asset or liability worth $50 million or more. Total minimum assets and liabilities are calculated by summing the lower ends of the ranges given for each individual asset and liability.
The true asset, liability and net worth totals of many members on the list are likely to be much higher than the minimums reflected in the reports.
Assets held by a spouse or dependent child are subject to the same ranges, with one major exception: The highest value category is more than $1 million, not more than $50 million. This quirk resulted in the reordering of the top two members for this yearís list. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, last yearís richest member, dropped to second place because he reported some of his wifeís assets in the $1 million and above category. Previously, they were listed in the $50 million and above range designated for members or jointly held assets.
For the first time, this yearís 50 Richest list breaks down assets into four categories: bank accounts, investments, real estate and trusts.
Bank accounts. Includes savings and checking accounts, certificates of deposit and assets explicitly labeled as cash that may be held in a retirement account.
Investments. A broad category that includes company shares and stock, municipal and government bonds, retirement and money market accounts, debts owed and mutual funds.
Real estate. Includes farms, undeveloped land, commercial and residential properties and holding companies that invest primarily in real estate.
Trusts. Any inherited or blind trusts.
Members arenít required to report income from congressional or other current federal government positions, such as military pay. Nor must they report assets such as personal residences that donít produce rental income, federal retirement plans, or any religious, social or fraternal organization positions. Under the insider-trading law known as the STOCK Act, mortgages on personal residences have to be disclosed as liabilities, even though personal residences arenít required to be listed as assets.
CQ Roll Call uses exact numbers as opposed to ranges when a member volunteers them. If a lawmaker breaks out components of a complicated investment, we use either the original asset value or the sum of the assetís individual parts, whichever is the larger number. We also assume that an asset belongs to the member if the lawmaker doesnít list an ownership category for the item.
For example, a member may own a real estate firm listed as one asset worth $100,001 to $250,001, but also break that asset down into two individual apartments each worth $15,001 to $50,001. The firmís minimum value of $100,001 is used in the 50 Richest calculations because itís greater than the minimum sum of the two apartments ($15,001 plus $15,001, or $30,002). If the apartments were both worth $100,001 to $250,001, then their sum ($200,002) would be used instead of the overall firmís value.
This policy ensures that within the constraints of the value ranges, the 50 Richest list reflects the most accurate data possible.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.