"As Economic Storm Brewed, Congressional Wealth Grew 11% Last Year
With a collective net worth of $3.7 billion, most of Congress's 535 members have fewer financial concerns in a recession than their constituents.
McCain remains one of Senate's many millionaires, and Obama joins the club.
WASHINGTON -- An economic recession is looking increasingly likely, but the personal finances of members of Congress suggest they will be able to withstand the slowdown far better than most Americans, according to a new analysis of lawmakers' latest personal financial reports by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
U.S. senators had a median net worth of approximately $1.7 million in 2007, the most recent year for which their financial data is available, and 61 percent of the Senate's members could be considered millionaires. In the House of Representatives, the median net worth was about $684,000, with 39 percent of members having net worths estimated to be at least $1 million. By contrast, only about 1 percent of all American adults can be considered millionaires. Growth between 2006 and 2007 was still a healthy 11 percent, despite indications last year that the economy was headed south.
"Worries about the economy that most members of Congress are feeling right now are likely coming from their constituents, who will head to the polls in less than three weeks," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. "For the majority of lawmakers, the pressure they are feeling wouldn't appear to be coming from their personal finances. With a median net worth of $745,000, most members of Congress have a comfortable financial cushion to ride out any recession."
Before the American economy showed signs in 2007 of slowing down, lawmakers had enjoyed an extraordinary run in their personal investments and other finances. Members of Congress, who are now paid about $169,000 annually, saw their net worths soar 57 percent from 2004 to 2007, on average.
One of the big gainers in 2007 was Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, who leaped from being the 70th richest senator in 2006 to the 31st in 2007. Obama's average net worth jumped from an estimated $800,000 in '06 to $4.7 million last year, fueled largely by royalties from his two best-selling books. Obama's presidential opponent, Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, dropped a couple of notches in 2007, from 10th to 12th. CRP estimated McCain's net worth in 2007 to be about $28.5 million, largely due to Cindy McCain's family fortune. Like many members of Congress, most of Sen. McCain's wealth is derived from his spouse.
The figures on elected representatives' personal wealth come from the financial disclosure reports they were required to file most recently, covering 2007, and from their reports for the preceding three years. CRP's award-winning website, OpenSecrets.org, details the finances of members of Congress in a free, publicly available, searchable database, along with the finances of the president, vice president and selected executive branch officials. As of this week, this two-year-old Web tool now contains data on officials' finances for 2004 through 2007, allowing for easy comparisons of their wealth over the four-year period.
FULL OF STRUGGLING STOCKS, LAWMAKERS' PORTFOLIOS HAVE TAKEN A HIT
In many ways, the investment portfolios of members of Congress resemble the holdings of other American investors -- blue-chip stocks, mutual funds and money market accounts. Assuming lawmakers still hold the same stocks they held in 2007, they, too, would appear to have lost money in companies such as Wachovia, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and in the stock market as a whole. For example, at the end of last year, Congressmembers' holdings in AIG were worth as much as $13.9 million. As of Oct. 15, their AIG stock was worth no more than $578,000. Lawmakers' Wachovia holdings have plummeted from a maximum value of $6.2 million at the end of 2007 to $981,000 now.
Members of Congress have millions of dollars invested in politically influential industries that they also regulate, including real estate (at least $301.1 million, which includes property they own), commercial banking ($34.1 million) and the securities and investment ($29.3 million) and insurance ($11.5 million) industries.
Oh, man, did you ever get took, America!!!