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50% Of Congress Are Millionaires

The richest member of Congress was, once again, Rep. Darrell (Benghazi!) Issa.

The nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics reports at least 268 of the 534 lawmakers were worth an average of $1 million in 2012. The year before, only about 48 percent of lawmakers were that loaded. “Despite the fact that polls show how dissatisfied Americans are with Congress overall, there’s been no change in our appetite to elect affluent politicians to represent our concerns in Washington,” said the center’s executive director.

Open Secrets:

"The richest member of Congress was, once again, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Issa, who made his fortune in the car alarm business, had an average net worth of $464 million in 2012. Issa had ruled the roost as the wealthiest lawmaker for several years but was bumped from that perch last year by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

In our analysis last year, we estimated that McCaul's 2011 average net worth was $500.6 million -- a dramatic increase for him from the year before. McCaul's affluence is primarily due to the holdings of his wife, Linda, the daughter of Clear Channel Communications Chairman Lowry Mays. McCaul took a dramatic tumble from the list's pinnacle, reporting an average net worth of $143.1 million in 2012.

Shed no tears for McCaul, though: His drop wasn't due to any great financial misfortune, but reflects changes in reporting rules. Beginning with reports covering calendar year 2012, high-value assets, income and liabilities belonging to the spouses of House members may be reported as being worth simply "$1 million or more." Previously, the forms required somewhat more specific valuations. So, for example, on his 2011 disclosure McCaul reported that his wife owned a 10.1 percent interest in LLM Family Investments that was worth "more than $50 million." Now, he reports that his wife's share of the fund has increased to 12.2 percent, but he can list it as a "spousal asset over $1,000,000," though it's likely worth much more.

This methodological change (to a system the Senate already uses) also appeared to affect Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). On her disclosure form covering 2010, she reported having an average net worth of $750,000. Then in 2011 she married hedge fund manager Donald Sussman, which increased her average net worth for that year to $85.8 million. Her report for 2012 shows a dramatic decline, to $42.4 million, because of the new reporting rules."

These millionaires are the people debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources -- it's no wonder that it seems we're seeing such a 'Let them eat cake!' attitude from many elected officials.

We truly are effectively being ruled by the 1 percent.

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