Only one percent of Americans can claim to be millionaires, yet 44 percent of members of Congress are millionaires according to the Center for Responsive Politics. CRP argues that more transparency in financial disclosure requirements is needed.
The Center for Responsive Politics released a study which found that, while only one percent of all Americans are millionaires, 44 percent of congressional members can make that claim.
Dave Levinthal, writing in CRP's Capital Eye Blog, noted, however, that the median wealth of congressional members fell 5 percent in 2008 when compared to 2007.
CRP data indicate that currently serving U.S. senators have a reportable worth of $1.79 million for 2008, down from $2.27 million in 2007, and House members median income was $622,254 in 2008, down from $724,258 in 2007.
However, Levinthal stated:
But with 237 millionaires still serving in Congress, most of the nation's leaders are doing fine compared to many of their constituents living paycheck by paycheck, if they're earning a paycheck at all.
CRP's research indicates that the "biggest financial losers" were Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).
Those with sharp upward spikes in reported wealth were Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
CRP compiled financial disclosure statements and public tax records for use in this study. However, members of Congress are only required to report their wealth and liabilities in broad ranges. They are not required to report assets like personal residences or, interestingly, the income from their elected offices.
Dan Auble, who manages CRP's database of lawmakers' personal financial information, was quoted as saying:
Federal disclosure requirements don't make it easy to determine the true extent of federal politicians' personal holdings. More transparency regarding congressional members' personal assets helps lawmakers make decisions in the interests of their constituents and discourages them from attempting to benefit from legislative actions.
For example. Levinthal was quoted in Sphere as saying, "Pfizer was the sixth most commonly held stock in 2008, for instance. Oftentimes, members of Congress are heavily invested in companies who will be affected by decisions the federal government makes."
The richest Senate member is Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is the richest House member.
When examined by assets owned in particular industries by members of Congress, the top industries were real estate, recreation/live entertainment, securities & investments, and crop production & basic processing.
The Pharmaceuticals/Health products industry ranked eighth.
According to Sphere, when the federal government bailed out several U.S. banks in 2008, "the second most commonly held stock among members of Congress was Bank of America," the CRP study showed. Other bank stocks commonly owned by members of Congress and receiving congressionally approved funds were Citi Group, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo.
The Center for Responsive Politics is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group that tracks money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. The Center accepts no contributions from businesses, labor unions or trade associations.