The 50 Richest Members of Congress

22 Sep

Talk about bad timing. It’s an election year with an epic financial crisis and Roll Call unleashes its list of 50 Richest Members of Congress. Ouch. I can’t imagine any politician wants to appear on this type of list nor do they want to have their personal wealth flaunted in front of anxious, worried voters. Then again, if someone is on this list, they’re doing just fine. Perhaps they’re sleeping better than the rest of us- at least on better sheets no doubt. For a bit of financial voyeurism, read on.

According to Roll Call these are the richest members of Congress:

1. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
$230.98 million

The Massachusetts Senator claims the mantel of richest Member in the 110th Congress. Kerry’s actual holdings, however — including those of wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, widow to ketchup heir Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) — are likely much greater.

In an April 2008 article, Forbes.com estimated Heinz Kerry’s net worth at $1 billion.

Kerry’s disclosure forms list the value of more than 180 assets — including Heinz family trusts and investment funds — only as “over $1 million,” rather than the more specific ranges including $1 million to $5 million. Senators are allowed to list assets in the “over $1 million” category only if the items are held independently by a spouse or dependent child.

2. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.)
$225.96 million

The wealthy Californian, who remains heavily invested in Harman International Industries, has seen her wealth increase nearly $10 million since filing her 2006 report.

Harman’s report lists three accounts, including one held solely by her husband, totaling a combined minimum of $125 million in stock and options in the company. Harman’s spouse founded the company, which manufactures electronics under the brand names AKG Acoustics, Harman Kardon, Infinity and JBL, among others.

In addition, Harman, who has no outstanding debts, lists a trust fund worth $1.8 million and an additional $2 million in multiple hedge fund accounts.

3. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
$160.62 million

The Golden State lawmaker added $2 million to his bottom line in 2007, increasing his fortune by a little more than 1 percent.

Issa, founder of the Vista, Calif.-based Directed Electronics, which manufactures car alarms, claims an investment worth at least $50 million in DEI and $25 million to $50 million in Greene Properties Inc. Both corporations own and operate office and industrial properties in California.

His portfolio also comprises numerous investment funds, including a dozen valued at a minimum of $5 million each.

4. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
$80.40 million

A descendant of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, the West Virginian’s vast assets remained stable in 2007, as his net worth increased by a little more than 1 percent.

Rockefeller’s fortunes are stored primarily in three blind trusts with JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wachovia Corp. and United National Bank, valued at more than $50 million, $25 million to $50 million, and $5 million to $25 million, respectively.

Another family trust is listed at simply “over $1 million.”

The Senator lists at least $5.5 million in debt on two loans, down from $6.5 million in 2006, when he listed an additional $1 million loan from United National Bank in Charleston, W.Va.

5. Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.)
$78.96 million

The Tar Heel State lawmaker’s wealth more than doubled since 2006, when he identified about $36 million in assets.

According to Hayes’ office, the increase, including more than $36 million in new trust funds, is the result of an inheritance. Hayes’ mother passed away in 2007.

Among the holdings in Hayes’ numerous trust funds are a mix of stocks and bonds, as well as properties including land in Lake County, Minn., and Sheldon, S.C., valued at least $5 million and $1 million, respectively.

The funds include at least $1 million in stock in corporations such as Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Merck, Pfizer, General Electric and Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA.

The North Carolinian also lists a commercial loan of at least $1 million to finance his private airplane.

6. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)
$65.49 million

Buchanan, the owner of several car dealerships, watched his wealth dip slightly in the past year, dropping $1.74 million, or more than 2 percent below his 2006 total.

While the Florida lawmaker’s empire — comprising several automobile dealerships, an aircraft charter business, real estate holdings and investment accounts — amounts to $102.34 million, it carries with it nearly $37 million in debt.

Included in that figure are new purchases in 2007: a King Air 350 aircraft and a Learjet, both listed as debts valued at $5 million to $25 million from SunTrust Leasing of Baltimore.

He also lists an Embraer Legacy from the same creditor for $5 million to $25 million.

7. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
$55.33 million

Lautenberg, who made millions from the payroll processing company he created five decades ago, reported that his total minimum assets jumped about 24 percent, from $45 million in 2006, but that number is still not very revealing. Lautenberg’s two biggest assets are two blind trusts that he set up for himself, each worth $5 million to $25 million. Together they count for $10 million of his assets for this list, though they could be worth five times that amount.

The major increase over last year appears to be in his wife’s assets. She has several family trusts in her name, mostly holding real estate, and between 2006 and 2007 she received additional assets from her mother, Lautenberg’s office said.

So in 2006, Lautenberg reported that through an entity called LCBS Corp. his wife held “over $1 million” of Mira Loma Associates, a company holding residential real estate in Riverside, Calif. In 2007, Mira Loma was listed twice at “over $1 million” — once as part of LCBS and once as a separate asset in Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg’s name. Several of her family trusts also purchased real estate and other assets worth more than $5 million in 2007.

8. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
$52.34 million

Together with her husband, financier Richard Blum, Feinstein claims a diversified portfolio that grew by $1.8 million, or an increase of just under 4 percent, since 2006.

The Californian lists assets with her husband that include ownership of all or part of numerous limited partnerships.

Among those, the Blum Family Partners, owned entirely by Blum, claims “over $1 million” in stock in RAE Systems, a manufacturer of chemical and radiation detection equipment. The fund also includes “over $1 million” in a real estate investment trust.

In addition, Feinstein lists a $5 million to $25 million investment in Carlton Hotel Properties in San Francisco and owns condos in both Tahoe City, Calif., and on Kauai in Hawaii, both valued at $1 million to $5 million.

Feinstein also lists at least $2 million in debt to Bank of America for two loans made to Blum Capital Partners.

9. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)
$47.62 million

Much of Kennedy’s wealth stems from family trusts, and the Massachusetts Senator reported almost no change in 2007, with an increase of less than 1 percent.

Kennedy lists one family trust valued from $25 million to $50 million, as well as four trusts worth at least $5 million each and a blind trust totaling at least $1 million.

The Bay State lawmaker also owns a rental property in Hyannisport, Mass., valued at at least $1 million and lists a plot of undeveloped land in Lafayette, La., owned by his wife, worth from $500,000 to $1 million.

Kennedy lists $1 million in mortgage debt from Northern Trust Co. for his Hyannisport property.

10. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.)
$28.65 million

If you take financial disclosure forms seriously (never a good idea), you might be led to believe that Smith’s net worth tripled last year. His 2006 financial disclosure form disclosed net assets of about $8.5 million.

But Smith’s worth is largely derived from Smith Food Sales, a purveyor of frozen vegetables. In 2006 he listed that asset as being worth $5 million to $25 million. In 2007, the value has jumped to the next category, $25 million to $50 million, so even if the value of the asset rose from just under to just more than $25 million, the effect on the disclosure form is to add $20 million to Smith’s minimum net worth. Since Smith doesn’t have to report the assets of the corporation, his actual net worth may be far above what is reported on the Congressional form.

For the remaining 40 richest members of Congress, see the rest of the list at Roll Call.

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2 Responses to “The 50 Richest Members of Congress”

  1. Julie September 23, 2008 at 6:36 pm #

    The rich get richer right? While the regular folks lose their homes, worry about paying heating bills this winter, and see their 401Ks disappear, the wealthiest members of Congress decide our collective fates. Lord help us.

  2. capie September 23, 2008 at 10:07 pm #

    Nice job if you can get it. Especially if you are a Senate lifer like Kerry.

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