An analysis of financial disclosure data by the Tribune News Service shows Congress was 20% richer at the start of the 115th Congress, in January 2017, than it was at the start of the previous Congress in 2015. Members had a staggering total fortune of at least $2.43 billion, with a median net worth of $511,000.
The financial disclosure forms submitted by members of Congress are inexact. They’re only required to submit a range for most assets—like between $500,000 and $1,000,000, as you can see on this example from Darrel Issa, the richest member of Congress—so the figures are based on the minimum of each range, making it very likely the true numbers are significantly higher.
The median net worth of members of Congress was $511,000, about five times higher than the median net worth for American families, which was $97,300 in 2016, according to a 2017 survey by the Federal Reserve. For black families, their net worth was just $17,600, meaning your median member of Congress is 29 times richer than the median black family. White families had a net worth of $171,000.
An older Congress also skew it more wealthy, as median net worth increases by age group, and Congress is old as fuck (and getting older). But bear in mind that members of Congress don’t have to submit the value of their houses or their contents, which is the main source of wealth for most Americans. So again, in reality, members of Congress are likely even more more-wealthy-than-you than these numbers show.
Roll Call analyzed the wealth of each member of Congress, complete with some information on where the richest among them got their stinking cash. It makes for fun reading! Here’s rich guy number four, Congressman David Trott from Michigan (with emphasis added throughout):
Starting in the late 1980s, he transformed his parent’s small law office, Trott & Trott, into a vertically integrated real estate behemoth with 1,800 employees. It became one of the biggest in the nation representing banks and other residential lenders with portfolios of bad mortgages—a so-called foreclosure mill that, at the height of the last decade’s housing crisis, evicted almost 80,000 a year in Michigan alone.
Lovely! And from number 10, Senator Dianne Feinstein from California:
The oldest current senator has some serious assets of her own, first among them a stake of at least $25 million in Carlton Hotel Properties, which runs one of the most famous hotels in her hometown of San Francisco. But Feinstein makes the top 10 list only because her third husband is Richard C. Blum, the chairman and president of Blum Capital, a highly successful equity investment management firm. His largest single stock holding is a stake of between $1 million and $5 million in Kite Pharma, a T cell therapy pharmaceutical company recently acquired by Silicon Valley pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences. The couple, married since 1980, owns a $1 million-plus condominium on Kauai.
And remember, when a member of Congress leaves for a lobbying gig, as many of them do, they see an average 1,452% pay rise, according to a Nation analysis from 2012. Lobbying spending is even higher now than it was then, which almost certainly means higher salaries. So the grass is even greener—by which I mean literally made of emeralds and shit—on the other side.
Anyway, I am sure members of Congress being vastly wealthy has absolutely no impact on how they legislate, or their understanding of income inequality, or student loans, or health insurance, or corporate tax. This is fine.