Members of Congress Lose Big Bucks in 2008, But Still Rank Among Nation's Richest

For Immediate Release

Center for Responsive Politics
Contact: 

Dave Levinthal (202-354-0111)

Members of Congress Lose Big Bucks in 2008, But Still Rank Among Nation's Richest

WASHINGTON - Even members
of Congress – many among the country's richest people -- aren't
impervious to the nation's economic
recession.

Current congressional
members' median wealth uncharacteristically dropped nearly 5 percent
in 2008 when compared to the prior year, a Center for
Responsive Politics analysis
of federal personal financial
disclosure reports indicates.

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.
About 1 percent of all
Americans are considered millionaires, while more than 44 percent of
congressional members claim that distinction. And 50 members of
Congress boast estimated wealth of at least $10
million.

"Generally speaking,
members of Congress are wealthy by comparison with the vast majority
of Americans. That doesn't mean they're immune to the effects of
this ailing economy -- they're not," said Sheila Krumholz, the
Center for Responsive Politics' executive director. "But they are
much better positioned to withstand financial pressures than the
people they
represent."

U.S. senators currently
serving have a median reportable worth of $1.79 million for 2008,
down from $2.27 million in 2007, CRP's analysis indicates.
Meanwhile, currently serving House members' median income was
$622,254 in 2008, down from $724,258 in 2007.

This ends a notable run of
congressional wealth expansion.

In 2007, for example,
members of Congress then serving experienced a 13 percent increase
in wealth when compared to 2006. Congressional members experienced
similar year-over-year increases back to the early part of this
decade.

Among Congress' biggest
financial losers: Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Kerry (D-Mass.),
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), according to
CRP's research. All experienced double-digit percentage declines in
their average, estimated wealth between 2007 and
2008.

On the opposite end,
however, stand Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Mitch McConnell
(R-Ky.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who
each experienced sharp spikes in their reported
wealth.

Many members of Congress
reported holding assets in companies that have come before them for
financial bailout money, such as Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.
Real estate holdings are the most popular investments among
congressional members. This is followed by recreational and live
entertainment entities – powered almost entirely by Kohl's ownership
of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team -- securities and farming.

But because members of
Congress are only required to report their wealth and liabilities in
broad ranges, it's impossible to precisely determine how much value
their assets are worth, or have gained or lost. CRP determines the
minimum and maximum possible asset values for each member of
Congress to calculate a member's average estimated wealth.

Based on this criteria,
Democrats occupy the top five spots in terms of average wealth among
senators: Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Warner, Kerry, Jay Rockefeller (D-W.
Va.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). Kohl, in placing first, boasts
an average wealth figure of more than $214.5 million. In contrast,
Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) recorded average
wealth below $0.

In the House, Rep. Darrell
Issa (R-Calif.) placed first, with an average wealth of $251 million
– top among all members of Congress. Following Issa are Reps. Jane
Harman (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). Twenty-three House
members recorded average wealth in negative territory, with Alcee
Hastings (D-Fla.) and Harry Teague (D-N.M.) scraping the
bottom.

This may – or may not –
mean that these members are financially destitute. In addition to
only requiring congressional members to report their assets in
ranges, federal financial disclosures don't require members of
Congress to report certain assets such as personal residences, which
may represent significant stores of
wealth.

"Federal disclosure
requirements don't make it easy to determine the true extent of
federal politicians' personal holdings," said Dan Auble, who manages
CRP's database of lawmakers' personal financial information. "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."

CRP advocates electronic
submission of personal financial disclosure reports to provide
greater transparency and more meaningful access to this valuable
public data.

Complete analysis of
federal lawmakers' personal finances are contained within CRP's
updated personal financial disclosure database, available
here
.

###

The Center for Responsive Politics is the nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. The nonpartisan, nonprofit Center aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more responsive government. CRP's award-winning website, OpenSecrets.org, is the most comprehensive resource for campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis available anywhere. CRP relies on support from a combination of foundation grants and individual contributions. The Center accepts no contributions from businesses, labor unions or trade associations.

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