These days, being a millionaire typically qualifies you as part of the one percent. But in Congress, it only makes you average.
About 47 percent of Congress, or 249 current members of Congress, are millionaires, according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics of lawmakers' personal financial disclosure forms covering calendar year 2010. The Center's analysis is based on the median values of lawmakers' disclosed assets and liabilities.
That lofty financial status is enjoyed by only about one percent of Americans.
"The vast majority of members of Congress are quite comfortable, financially, while many of their own constituents suffer from economic hardships," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.
"It's no surprise that so many people grumble about lawmakers being out-of-touch," Krumholz continued. "Few Americans enjoy the same financial cushion maintained by most members of Congress -- or the same access to market-altering information that could yield personal financial gains."
On the whole, elected officials in the country's upper chamber enjoy cushier bank accounts and portfolios than their counterparts in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 2010, the year of the most recently released financial data, the estimated median net worth of a current U.S. senator stood at an average of $2.56 million, according to the Center's research.
Despite the global economic meltdown in 2008 and sluggish recovery, that's up about 7.6 percent from an estimated median net worth of about $2.38 million in 2009, according to the Center's analysis. And it's up about 13 percent from a median estimated net worth of $2.27 million in 2008.
Economic well-being knows no partisan loyalty.
Fully 36 Senate Democrats and 30 Senate Republicans reported an average net worth in excess of $1 million in 2010, according to the Center's analysis. The same was true of 110 House Republicans and 73 House Democrats.
The median estimated net worth among Senate Republicans was $2.43 million, and the median net worth among members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate was $2.58 million, by the Center's tally.
Meanwhile, in the House, the median estimated net worth of a GOP House member was $834,250 in 2010, according to the Center's research, compared to a median net worth of $635,500 among House Democrats.
The median estimated net worth among House members, overall, stood at $756,765 in 2010. That's up about 17 percent compared to the median net worth of $645,500 among House members in 2008, but down about 1 percent compared to 2009, when House members posted a median estimated net worth of $765,010, according to the Center's analysis.
ISSA ON TOP
When members of Congress file these annual reports, they are allowed to list of the value of their assets and liabilities in broad ranges. The Center for Responsive Politics determines the minimum and maximum possible values for each asset and liability for every member of Congress and then calculates each lawmaker's average estimated net worth.
Sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars -- if not millions of dollars -- separate a lawmaker’s minimum estimated worth from his or her maximum estimated wealth.
For instance, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) ranks as the wealthiest member of the 112th Congress, according to the Center's analysis of 2010 financial disclosures. Issa's minimum estimated net worth in 2010 was $195 million, while his maximum estimated net worth was more than $700 million. That gives Issa an average net worth of $448 million.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) ranks as the wealthiest House Democrat. Polis, who has spent about $7 million of his own money on his campaigns since 2007, has an average estimated net worth of $143 million.
That's not good enough to rank him as the No. 2 wealthiest member of Congress though. In fact, it only ranks him as No. 5 wealthiest current lawmaker.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) all rank higher.
McCaul's average estimated net worth in 2010 stood at $380 million, while Kerry's stood at about $232 million and Warner's at about $193 million.
Kerry's sizeable net worth is thanks, largely, to the assets of his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry.
All members of Congress are required to report not only their own holdings but also that of their spouses and any dependents. However, calculating the exact value of many of their investments is impossible.
The top bracket of assets held by senators' spouses is simply "more than $1 million," so many lawmakers' families' net worth are likely undervalued. For instance, some estimate that Heinz Kerry's net worth may exceed $1 billion.
Notably, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who places as the No. 12 richest member of Congress with an average estimated net worth of about $60 million, ranks as the wealthiest Senate Republican.
At the other end of the spectrum, a handful of members of Congress are definitely in debt.
No matter how you slice the information on the congressional disclosure forms for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), for instance, her net worth is below zero. Her maximum net worth is a negative $15,000, while her minimum net worth is a negative $50,000.
A similar predicament afflicts Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Louis Gohmert (R-Texas), Steve Fincher (R-Tenn.) and Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.).
That said, members of Congress might be more financially well off than we can see. The annual filings do not include the values of government retirement accounts, personal property -- such as cars or artwork -- that not for investment or any non-income-generating property, such as their primary residences.
Moreover, because of the forms' broad ranges for assets and liabilities, it's impossible to know whether some members of Congress are in the black or in the red.
For instance, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) could be worth as much as $106 million in debt or as much as $70 million in the black, depending on the exact values of his assets and liabilities.
Kohl, who has in past years ranked among the wealthiest members of Congress, owns the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team and several valuable pieces of land, among other investments. The NBA team is his largest single asset and was valued at $258 million last year. But in 2010, he also reported nine liabilities totaling between $280 million and $425 million.
His average estimated net worth of negative $18 million currently ranks him as the poorest member of Congress. Notably, Kohl chairs the Senate subcommittee that could act as a mediator in the current NBA lockout, should Congress opt to intervene in the dispute.
Download the full list of all current members of Congress and the most popular congressional investments here: http://bit.ly/s1GeBy
Please don't hesitate to use this information, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics if you do.
POLITICAL HEAVY WEIGHTS RANK AMONG FAVORITE PICKS
The most popular company in which members of Congress were invested in 2010 was General Electric, a company that spent more than $39 million on federal lobbying that year and ranked as the No. 3 top spender on lobbying.
Seventy-five different current members of Congress held stock in GE in 2010, according to the Center's research. Collectively, these holdings were worth at least $3.6 million.
Procter & Gamble and Bank of America ranked No. 2 and No. 3 behind General Electric in terms of the most popular investments, with 62 lawmakers and 57 lawmakers, respectively, holding stocks in each of those companies, according to the Center's analysis.
Lawmakers' Procter & Gamble holdings were worth at least $8.7 million, and their Bank of America holdings were worth at least $2.8 million, according to the Center's research.
Microsoft and Cisco Systems tied for the No. 4 spot, with 56 members of Congress reporting holdings in the two tech companies. And pharmaceutical giant Pfizer ranked next, with 51 members of Congress reporting holdings in 2010.
Lawmakers' stocks in Microsoft were worth at least $3.2 million, their stocks in Cisco Systems were worth at least $1.3 million and their stocks in Pfizer were worth at least $2 million, by the Center's tally.
In all, there were 41 separate stocks or investment funds in which at least 20 current members of Congress invested during 2010.
PUSHING FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY, ACCESS
Federal law requires that all members of Congress annually file personal financial disclosure forms.
Most of these forms are filed in May and made publicly available in June. However, many lawmakers receivedextensions of up to 90 days. And while the House makes its reports freely available online, one must still trek in-person to the Senate Office of Public Records and purchase copies of these reports -- further adding to the difficulty of accessing these them.
As soon as these reports become available, the Center for Responsive Politics gathers -- and pays for -- these public records. Then, weeks and months of data entry then ensue, turning paper records into the data that get incorporated into the OpenSecrets.org personal financial disclosure database.
The Center for Responsive Politics advocates for the electronic submission of personal financial disclosure reports to provide greater transparency and more meaningful access to this valuable public data.
"More transparency regarding congressional members' personal assets will help assure constituents that their lawmakers are not attempting to personally benefit from legislative actions," said Dan Auble, who manages the Center's database of politicians' personal financial information.
"It's time for Congress to make a leap forward into the Internet age," Auble continued. "This critical information must be made available in a search-able, sort-able, download-able and machine-readable format. Citizens across the country shouldn't be required to wait and wait and wait."
Some members of Congress are currently pushing legislation to require that members of Congress and their employees report financial transactions regarding stocks and bonds in excess of $1,000 within 90 days. That bill, known as the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, would also prohibit members of Congress and their aides from buying or selling investments based on nonpublic information obtained because of their status.